slight miss torque on an egress line on an A-16, that could kill a pilot. …I’m concerned about somebody getting bad information into a system that we rely on for operations” (AFCIC/SY). Here, the central driver goes beyond the data to see how people use data to generate information that is essential to accomplishing an organizational mission. Over the course of the Y2K effort, the central focus shifted from hardware and software to data and information and, ultimately, to how people use information to achieve organizational goals.
Y2K encouraged organizations to reverse the commonly held perspective of computer-centric IT management by emphasizing the central nature of data as they are used in the accomplishment of organizational missions. Data and the databases within which they reside represent the core knowledge of an organization, and an organization faced with saving either their processing systems or their data will choose the data. For many IT professionals this represented a new perspective on their systems. Data, databases, and the knowledge they represent were increasingly seen as holding a stable central position, with computers and software constantly evolving to assure that people could use the data and knowledge to achieve organizational goals.
The increasingly information-centric perspective of ICT fostered in part by Y2K did not just mean that traditional IT professionals began to view data, information, and knowledge as holding a more central position in their world. It also meant that many operational and strategic managers who had previously seen themselves to be on the periphery of the ICT world (if not completely outside it) suddenly found themselves thrust into its center. This coming together of operational and ICT managers was one of the most significant outcomes of Y2K. For many organizations (including the Air Force), Y2K instigated the first large-scale, formal effort to align ICT management with operational and strategic management.
Generally, IT management and the strategic management of an organization have differed significantly. IT management has focused on acquisition and keeping technology working within an imperfect world where failures and fixes are a common occurrence. In this world, correct decisions about hardware and software, based primarily on technical knowledge, result in relatively short-term system improvements, such as restored or improved functionality, increased compatibility, and easier maintenance.
On the other hand, strategic organizational and business decisions are seen as being more pervasive, with longer-term impact on a wider range of the enterprise. Strategic decisions are generally the result of a negotiated consensus process within a dynamic context of shifting economic, legal, and political forces. The goal is to achieve an accepted best direction based on appropriate trade-offs and compromises. While the nature of this decision is complex, once it is made there is little tolerance for error and miscalculation. To a strategic planner, failure is a career-threatening event; to an IT manager, failure is part of the job. This is one example of the differences in perspective, focus, and knowledge that can result in a gap between ICT and strategic management, and both sides can help create this gap. “Managers have often delegated or abdicated