A 53-page study was released by the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF) where they examined how information and communication technology have impacted 5 areas: productivity, employment, more efficient markets, higher quality goods and services, and innovation and new products and services. Here’s the net/net of their study:
There is no doubt that the IT revolution has enhanced quality of life, from improving health care, to making it easier for children to get better information and learn more, to giving consumers more convenience in their interactions with business and government and making it easier to measure environmental quality. But while these and other benefits are important, perhaps the most important benefit of the IT revolution is its impact on economic growth.
The United States, and indeed the world, have benefited greatly, with faster productivity and income growth, more innovation, higher quality products and services, and increased opportunity and convenience for hundreds of millions of IT users around the globe. It is not clear how long IT will power growth, but it seems likely that for a least the next decade or two IT will remain the engine of growth. The opportunities for continued diffusion and growth of the IT system appear to be strong. Many sectors, such as health care, education, and government, have only begun to tap the benefits of IT-driven transformation.
As a person who has worked in IT for my entire career, I agree with this study (for obvious reasons) and I agree that IT will continue to contribute to economic growth and productivity. But one area that I did not see this study mention is, what I’m going to call, the ‘human barrier.’ Here’s what I mean:
Human beings are creatures of habit. So, when people get comfortable with their environment, they tend to not want to change their environment. If we apply this to an IT organization, it translates into ‘barriers’ where an IT organization does not want to leverage or adopt new technologies to improve productivity/efficiency for the company it serves. Why? Fear of the unknown. The organization knows its current technology and is comfortable with it so they look at new technologies as a risk rather than a benefit (like sticking its head in the sand). Instead, they only focus on their existing technologies – however outdated or inefficient. In addition, it requires more work to adopt a new technology so laziness becomes the second part of the ‘human barrier’… while we’re at it, there’s also a third part – corporate politics.
Of course, there are IT organizations out there that embrace new technologies but there are also quite a lot that don’t (I’ve experienced both). After all, isn’t the IT department supposed to assess new technology to see how it can help the company be more competitive, efficient, etc. rather than being fearful of new technology?
As IT organizations overcome the ‘human barrier’ we will see more gains in productivity by leveraging our existing technology. After that happens, the whole cycle of overcoming the ‘human barrier’ will repeat itself with regards to adopting the new-er technologies – e.g., RFID, VoIP, voice recognition, etc.