The analysis from consulting firms, the business blogs, the Press reports and the tomes from academia are all looking back at the past seven years and explaining how it was that the planet fell into the economic mess that we are now experiencing. In November of 2000, my good friend David told me to get out of growth stocks and move into gold (of all things). I didn’t listen, of course. Later, when it turned out he knew something I didn’t, I took his advice and made sure that I invested in some of the things he was doing, and when he told me that housing was an asset bubble just like the stocks he’d suggested dumping, I made sure I was in bonds and treasuries. I know nothing about economics. But I didn’t claim to see around corners with my software, either.
Where has all of our IT investment in data mining, analytics, forecasting, and measurement gotten us? Did it help your company anticipate trouble? Has it cushioned you adaquately from current conditions? Is morale higher in your workforce now than before the massive IT investments? Do employees have more leisure time?
Is it time that you broke out your Thorstein Veblen work, “The Theory of the Leisure Class” and gave it a re-read? In a vibrant service economy, more and more people made more and more money not based on their labor, but on their ability to extract money without producing anything whatsoever – by creating instruments to ‘leverage’ in the form of derivatives and loans and swaps and esoteric funds and buyouts: things you can’t eat, or build with, or wear, or travel in, or manufacture with. And many of them made billions taking their slice of the fictional wealth and profits that they conjured.
And how, exactly, did IT track, identify, perceive, illustrate, communicate, or work to prevent rotten loans and false premises about future growth and profit and shaky forecasts? Or predict that tour faith in the systems that created the profit and wealth was quixotic? What we are now reading are all of the post-mortems where the pundits decompose the steps leading to the crash and unemployment and systemic piling of new debt. Timing is everything, eh? Maybe we all get to enjoy a period of humility within which we acknowledge the narrow scope of how technology helps us understand the most-likely future. It has been a great force in streamlining and standardizing and optimizing processes, but IT is still a long way from acting as an accurate predictive tool guiding business leaders away from turbulent waters.
Maybe we will see a new generation of tools that look at business pattern sensitivity and give all of us the warning beacons that keep us off of the rocks.
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