So, in the wake of Nicholas Carr's "IT Doesn't Matter" thesis, I've been playing around in high-concept land, with some of the less precise, more fraught and overloaded terms we all see day to day:
and their standard permutations:
- Information Technology
- Information Technology Infrastructure (Library)
- Information Technology Service Management
- Information Systems
- Management Information Systems
- Data Management
- Knowledge Management
- Business (Intelligence)
and so forth. The following process of elimination has ensued:
First, I never really understood why it was deemed "progress" when Information Technology (IT) replaced Information Systems (IS) - it always seemed a step backwards, because it implicitly prioritized the tool (technology) over what you were doing with it in context (the system). In the wake of Nicholas Carr, I think the word Technology has to go. It is already a commodity, not strategic, and simply not that interesting.
And Infrastructure is a woeful word, worse than Technology in mundane connotations. If IT "doesn't matter," IT infrastructure is even more trivial. Sewers, anyone? So, bye-bye, ITIL.
Likewise, the word Data is too low in the food chain. It means bits and bytes, and is generally understood to be subordinate to Information. Conversely, Knowledge is too high-order and some would say by definition can't be "managed."
Information, however, is term that I think stays. It's at a certain sweet spot of "we know it when we see it, but it's never easily achieved - and often can't be commoditized." Information as a concept connotes value -if it's not useful, it's by definition not information. Today's information is tomorrow's mere data - the concept embodies a continually rising bar of utility, and in this dynamism is highly business aligned and relevant.
System is a glass-box word, one that invites you in -- to examine all its mind-numbing, gory inner workings. Service, on the other hand, has a clear boundary that anyone who enjoys espresso can intuitively grasp. It's not about the details of whether the coffee beans were delivered today or the steam pressure is up to spec; it's about that quality hot java, delivered with a smile. It's not about the network or the server or the OS or the middleware or the DBMS; it's whether the system as experienced by the end user is fit for purpose.
So, down with Information Systems and MIS as well. And down also with Data Management and Information Technology anything, including Infrastructure. An acceptable core term of Information Services starts to emerge. Information... Services. I like it. Information as a service. Not technology as a service; not software as a service. But information - the sensory apparatus and cognition of business. As a service, not a system.
But who provides information, at the highest, most business-relevant level, as a service to inform business strategy? Look no further than your local data warehousing group, aka your "Business Intelligence" capability. They are the people who revolutionized Wal-Mart's supply chain and who provide some of the most valuable computing services in the enterprise. And note that they have the word "Business" embedded front and center...
Business Information Services? Like it. Like it very much.
We can turn it into a discipline: Business Information Services Management. We can turn it into an association, a forum, a library - but wait! There is the Business Information Services Library already! Not that I'm terribly familiar with it; it's mainly a Dutch thing and it doesn't seem to have much of a BI flavor - but it should.
Business Information Services Management. The intersection of Data Management and IT Service Management. The Google search on that string yields all of 8 hits tonight (10/10/2007). Will that number increase?
I think it ought to.
PS. What about ISACA and ITGI? Well, Audit and Control definitely don't sound value-add. Governance? Information Services Governance? Doesn't do a lot for me... But Val-IT is interesting. BIVM? BISVM?