Information technology: a comedy-free zone?

I think I’ve lost my sense of humour. This is peculiar, considering I’m supposed to be writing the funny bit on this back page. As I struggled with the normal professional rubbish with which most of us are familiar, it occurred to me that IT might not actually be funny.

To test the assertion that IT isn’t humorous, I decided to pick up some source material and see what the IT comedy score is. I selected the April issue of ComputerWorld Canada’s sister publication, CIO Canada, and started checking out some of the topics it covered:

• Identity theft: a recent Ipsos-Reid poll suggests four out of five Canadians think it’s a serious problem. The topic is not funny, unless you stole Brad Pitt’s or Angelina Jolie’s identity and thought it would work out well.

• Organic light-emitting diode displays: news about a University of Toronto nanotechnology breakthrough which, in my opinion, is only funny if you think you’d buy this along with your organic spinach and granola. At least organic in the diode context makes sense.

• Controlling mobile phone costs: telecom expense management firm Avema proposes 10 ways to reduce expenditures. One of the suggestions is to get employees to pay for personal calls. Not a bad idea, except for the time lost wading through those bills. No giggles there; it just enhanced my cynical circuit.

• Answering tough questions about your IT operations: According to Forrester Research, CIOs apparently don’t know the response to, “What is everyone working on?” The suggestion is that an integrated IT management dashboard will help. I am unsure how this will work, given that one would generally classify the data going into the dashboard as a load of lies and conjecture. In the end, this is not funny, but cynical.

• A bunch of IT execs go to Everest to test disaster recovery: This one was close. The execs were setting up a wireless network 17,575 feet above sea level. I am unclear as to what this would prove. I’m having enough trouble with my wireless network at my house. I think they should have tried this in Pemberton, B.C. They could then add the variable of being shot at by stupid hunters who mistake pet dogs for wild game.

• Procurement executives spend 27 per cent more on IT than their peers, according to a study by business process advisory firm The Hackett Group. Well, good for them. But it’s not funny.

• The supply chain fish story was great. The tech side of the story centres on salmon producer and aquaculture firm Stolt Sea Farm Inc. swapping out JD Edwards and Lotus for Navision and Microsoft Exchange solutions. But the whole idea of Stolt trying to measure the amount of food required to raise sturgeon over a 10-year period, while at the same time keeping an eye on global caviar prices, just made me laugh.

• The CIO Insider Survey was amusing for reasons both odd and obscure. According to the survey, the joke about CIO standing for ‘Career Is Over’ seems to be over. CIOs are staying longer in their jobs, which is nice — it means they don’t feel like they’re in Klingon Empire Management Training.

• Sarbanes-Oxley and Bill 198 may force legislation of IT governance standards: not only boring, but also not funny.

• Grid computing: This article covered the basics, which is fine from a tech point of view. But whenever I read about this concept, I can’t help but recall the blackout in eastern Canada and the U.S. a couple of summers ago. Not very funny for those who experienced it.

• The CEO-CIO relationship: I’ve never understood it. It’s clearly comedy-neutral.

So I now conclude, based on my review of CIO Canada, that one-half of IT is funny; the other half is just really, really quirky.

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— Robert Ford is a Vancouver-based consultant who worries that there isn’t enough comedy. Heard a good one lately? Robert@quokkasystems.com.



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