I call IT as I see it

dictionary.jpgWhen we went through a redesign of ComputerWorld Canada last year we decided to call our feature section IT Business. This was in part because a Web site I launched some years ago, ITBusiness.ca, had never had its own print component, and in part because I thought IT Business was a good way to describe what the in-depth stories we write are really about.

The other day, however, my publisher suggested we make a change to ICT Business, because she’d heard someone from an industry association use information and communications technologies to sum up what professionals in corporate enterprises actually use. I resisted the idea without going into too much detail, and being the kind of manager she is, she demonstrated her faith in me by supporting my decision. But maybe it’s worth going into a little more detail now.

First, I should acknowledge that this is a debate that’s been going on in the industry for a while now, and ICT is not the only option out there. Forrester analyst George Colony published an executive brief two years ago that suggested we go with “business technology” or BT. Mike Schaffner, writing on his Beyond Blinking Lights and Acronyms blog, offered the best refutation for this particular moniker. “There is no question that IT/BT is crucial to business today. But then so is Human Resources, Marketing, Production, Supply Chain etc. Should we change their names to Business Resources, Business Analytics, etc.?” he asked. “My point is that a name change is just that – a name change and nothing more. If it helps you focus on what you should be doing then fantastic. But merely changing the name alone doesn’t change what you do and how you do it.”

Then there’s the whole problem of what British Telecom (BT) might think about it.

An Australian business analyst/consultant, Yasas Vishuddhi Abeyrickrama, made the case for ICT just last summer. “What we do is (manage) ‘technologies to process and communicate information,’” he wrote. “Communication plays a major part in IT, therefore in the bigger scheme of things, it should be included in the naming. Without that C component, IT won’t work.”

True enough, perhaps, but that doesn’t make it any more redundant than BT. Communication is just one thing you do with information. If IT was just about how information is processed, we would have called it IPT, or we might have broken the profession down still further to take note of how information is stored, retrieved, analyzed and otherwise managed. But no one uses IST, IRT, IAT or IMT because it simply glorifies a tangential part of the equation.

As voice and video converge over Internet Protocol to become another form of data in a network, communications will be even more integrated into IT. That’s why you don’t see anyone other than a public relations executive referred to as a communications manager. No matter how well they enable business processes, the people in our industry are experts in technology. The word “information” is a qualifier because they are not experts in physical technologies (which could be something as simple as a wheel or a hammer). In an industry whose language tends to create more confusion than meaning, the term IT requires no upgrade.

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