In a recent talk about software development, the presenter described an epiphany moment. He was walking past the server room and his boss explained, “That’s where the value is - in there. Software doesn’t have value until it’s actually deployed.” In my experience that’s close but not quite right. In fact, software doesn’t have value until it’s actually used. If you’ve ever been part of a new software project where the intended users failed to take up the software after it was deployed, you know what I mean.

Going further, software doesn’t have value until it’s used to facilitate change. Sometimes existing work practices and policies are so ingrained in new software it’s impossible to distinguish work before the deployment of a very expensive system and work after. Hmm.

Going further still, the change facilitated has to support the mission. Sometimes people are reluctant to use a new computer system so they’ll compromise by doing it the new way and the old way. Maybe you know someone who grudgingly uses the computer to input information for the boss’ report. The person still wants the information given to them on the paper forms, and just to be sure double-checks the spreadsheet’s calculations using their desk calculator; every time. He passes the printed report along with copies of the paper forms to the manager and keeps the originals for the files. He’s changed, but not in a significant way that supports the mission.

The value of Information Technology is in the change that happens on the other side of the keyboard. When people use technology to change – to do new things, or stop doing inefficient things, that’s when value is realized. That’s where the promise of information technology is realized.


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