The Internet isn’t such a huge hit because the technology is so cool, it’s a huge hit because it has become so damned easy…

Most Useful IT = the IT of “Enlightened Invisibility”

I suspect that we IT types will be most useful to society when the work we do disappears into the background, when people stop thinking about IT as “new age” and “high tech,” when the newest crop of millionaires come from some other field than IT and the Internet.

When that day comes, the best technology, as they say, will be indistinguishable from magic.

It has happened before, in other industries, and there’s a lesson in it for us too.

Recall that there were Bill Gates’ and Jeff Bezos’ and Michael Dells’ before the Gates’ and Bezos’ and Dells that loom so large today. In earlier years, they were the railway robber barons, the great industrialists, the Fords and the Rockefellers. The technologies and processes that they pioneered, the changes they introduced into the industries they (temporarily) dominated, have in the years since become such a part of the scenery that we don’t even think about them much anymore.

When was the last time you really gave a thought to the railroad? You know it’s there, you assume it works, and you hope it continues to work, preferably quietly and effectively and in the background.

This gradual fade to the background should happen to us too. When we stop seeing every third newsmagazine cover article on “The new age lords of the Internet,” when we get to the point that an Internet IPO comes to market with the same math and reception as any other IPO, maybe we’ll be getting IT closer to the desired state of enlightened invisibility.

It works for cars. How often do you give a thought to how your car works? If you’re like me, you assume it’ll run as long as you put gas in it and hand it over to someone qualified once in a while for scheduled maintenance.

Ultimately, the IT business has to head toward this same state of enlightened invisibility, and the sooner the better.

But we’re not there yet: computers still aren’t very easy to use for the average consumer, and sometimes we’re not very much inclined to help them get that way – unless you work for Apple, of course, in which case you’re excused.

We’re not there yet: we need to remember that the Internet isn’t such a huge hit because the technology is so cool, it’s a huge hit because it has become so damned easy that my elderly aunt wants to and can use it to shop.

We’re not there yet, but you can see it coming – why are all the ERP companies rushing like mad dogs to put out an Internet version of their software? Because their clients are asking, demanding, why can’t your software be as easy to use as Amazon.com?

We’re not there yet, but you can see it coming – the day when you see a pocket-sized device (incorporating the functions of a Palm Pilot and a cell phone and a GPS all in one) appearing in an ad for something else entirely. Maybe it’ll be part of a plug for Ethan Allen furniture – buy a couch and you’ll get one free. Technology that’s not quite invisible, but definitely secondary.

We’re not there yet: but you can see it coming. We’ll have finally been successful with all this IT stuff when our kids learn how to use all the products we’ve created without ever giving a second thought to how they work.

We’re not there yet: but you can see it coming…

Hanley is an IS professional living in Calgary. He can be reached at isguerrilla@hotmail.com.



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