Pervasive IT and Jargon

My experience is that the wider community is less clear. Information is actually quite a slippery term anyway, but then so is networking or community say.

People who work in Lean do not share a common understanding of process with IT folk in my experience.

Faced with "machine intelligence", the general assumption is about machines that can think, not machines that do things that if done by humans would require intelligence.

I could go on. System and Knowledge could fill a book on their own.

This was brought to a head recently when I bumped into a former colleague. The last time i saw him was at a project initiation workshop for a health IT system. It turned out that through recent ill health he had become a user of this system that we had initiated.

I made an attempt at a joke by being grateful that our system had worked. I got a thoughtful response which has made me think.

Is a clinical procedure a business process?

What we initiated was an IT system to support a clinical pathway. Anyway, what he discovered as a patient was that the lessons learned during the implementation phase had all been noted in the initial workshop. However, they had been lost in the journey to delivery, only to be rediscovered once the IT and the real world met, as if unanticipated. Yet the entire project followed "industry best practice" throughout.

My former colleagues at Capgemini, Carl Bate ( now at ATOS) and Nigel Green wrote a book a couple of years ago called "Lost in Translation". When I first met them, it was clear to me that the framework that they had developed VPEC-T (look it up on Wikipedia) was an interesting framework for the development of an emerging or next practice model of information systems.

In an increasingly interconnected and interdependent world, we seem to need to relearn lessons from the data processing era. DP was seen as a socio-technical discipline. Pioneers like Enid Mumford thought intelligently about the interaction between computer and business systems in a way I think we’ve lost sight of in the IT era.

As IT becomes more central to life in the 21st century, as more than a billion items of "wetware" interconnect to the networked information society then our responsibility to speak with clarity and to understand when we use common words as jargon will be a marker for our maturity as a discipline.

Roll on the semiotic web. That'll be fun won't it?

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About the author
Chris is a technology and policy futurologist. Chris has been in the IT industry since 1980. His roles have spanned Honeywell, ICL, HP, Microsoft and Capgemini. He is a Fellow of the BCS and a Fellow of the RSA.

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