Beyond the break/fix mentality in enterprise IT

No one would call Fran Lebowitz an early adopter. In fact, she's more like an anti-adopter.
A writer of humorous books of social criticism in the late 1970s and early 1980s, Lebowitz is known for putting off the publication of her first novel for as long as possible. She was also recently the subject of a documentary by Martin Scorsese called Public Speaking, where she riffs on all kinds of topics with dry sarcasm and occasional flashes of real insight. As a result she's been doing a lot of press and a recent interview with New York magazine included a quote I feel deserves repeating in this space. It's a perfect example of why some users lack all trust in the potential of enterprise IT:
What if Thomas Edison said like, “Well I have a lightbulb that works one second and then it doesn’t work … “? He finished inventing the lightbulb and they work. I mean every single company has a whole department that fixes computers because they break all the time, not occasionally. They break. “Can they do this?” “No the computer’s down.” … You can call it “down,” but isn’t that the same as broken? I mean this isn’t true of old things. When they broke you said they broke. But it was not built into the thing to break. So, should they actually become simple enough to use, I’m sure I will use them, you know? I’m not saying that I have anything against them, it’s just that they’re machines. That’s it. I see that and I know that it’s changed everything, unfortunately it’s not changed the human being which is just as poor a species as it ever was.
You can't deny a certain amount of truth here, but any reasonable IT manager will also see a misperception that desparately needs correcting. Yes, technology is always breaking down, and much of it should work better than it should. But the role of that department she refers to is not just about fixing computers. It's about helping those in the workplace use computers to improve the quality of life through their efforts on the job, whether it's selling a product, providing a service or supporting a customer.
As clever as it sounds, a lightbulb turns on and off. That's the extent of human interaction with it. A computer faciliates conversations, calculates, performs transactions. The needs, expectations and potential pitfalls of such devices are infinite. If IT departments waited for the technology to be perfect it would probably never come out. Kind of like Fran Lebowitz's novel.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada
Shane Schick
Shane Schick
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