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i vision and Value Getting the Most out of Microcomputers JohaM. Thompson* I believe we are now in the second wave of the computer revolu- tion. The first wave focused on the use of information technology to replace people; now we are more concerned with supporting people. We are moving from the automation of structured tasks of the first 10 to 15 years of the computer revolution into the sup- port of unstructured tasks, the support of managerial activity. Much of the discussion in this book concerning end-user com- puting and managerial support uses words and ideas that have been around for years. Now, however, different media and tech- nologies are available. In the late 1960s we saw timesharing; in the 1970s, minicomputers; in the early l980s, the information cen- ters a sort of in-house timesharing service bureau. Now in the mid-l9SOs, we are seeing an influx of personal computers (PCs), end-user computing, and networks. There is a Tot of talk about the need to integrate all of these technologies to support people in their workplace. John Diebold sets the stage for this discussion when he talks about the millions of computer-literate people in the workplace for whom microcomputers can unleash imaginations and creativity. He also reminds us of the proliferation of technological alterna *John M. Thompson is vice-president of Index Systems, Inc., Cambridge, Massa- chusetts. 3

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4 MANAGING MICROCOMPUTERS fives with a rather catchy phrase: "option shock." The theme of unleashing creativity recurs throughout this book. In the indus- trial revolution we invented machines to provide leverage to hu- man muscle; perhaps now we are inventing machines that can pro- vide leverage to the human mincI. To carry the analogy a little further, in the nineteenth century we proviclec3 support to the blue-collar worker; in the twentieth century we have been provid- ing support to the white-colIar worker. Some time early in the twenty-first century we must find a way to bring it all together. The essays in Part I examine where microcomputer technology has come from and where it appears to be headed. Thomas WilImott discusses what he calls the "technology push" in his description of the first two phases in the evolution of the personal computer. In the first phase the personal computer is simply an individual workstation. It is characterized by a cottage industry of software producers supplying the workstation and trying to make it useful. Now we are moving into a second phase, in which microcomputers become part of a network. This phase raises many kincis of different problems that are echoed in this report: Where is the data? How do I manage it? How do I exercise con- trol? Do I control? WilImott, as well as other contributors to this volume, evokes the image of some bright scientists making ma- chines faster, cheaper, and smaller and then pushing them into our organizations, saying, "There! You figure out what to do with them! " The notion of "technology push" is reinforced by Mitchell Ka- por, who writes about the "heroic geniuses" producing software. Software producers are not driven by a careful analysis of market need, says Kapor. Instead, they are driven by the need simply to figure out what to do with the personal computer. Because no- body really knows what to do with these computers, somebody gets a good idea, tries it, and perhaps it works in the marketplace. Kapor predicts that soon the general drive will be toward soft- ware systems that integrate five major areas of microcomputer use spreadsheet, data base, word processing, graphics, and com- munications. New clevelopments will allow easy movement be- tween windows and create open systems that can interact with other hardware and applications software systems in which each of the five elements is not compromised by being part of an integrated system. The design objectives of such systems is to produce individual applications that are just as good as the avail

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GETTING THE MOST OUT OF MICROS 5 able stand-alone versions. In abolition, the "home" of the data wouIc! be absolutely transparent to the user. For those of us who have used any form of a personal computing system, be it a per- sonal computer or distributed from a timesharing system, this all souncis very powerful. In fact, combining the power of the tech- nology in both hardware and software seems a little like having a Ferrari on the island of Grenada. Right now PCs make a great deal of power available, but there are not many places for us to use that power yet. Robert Metcalfe predicts widespread use of local area networks with peripheral sharing, information access, and personal com- munications. Some have predicted that the 1980s will be remem- bered as the critical decade in which everyone became intercon- nectecI. If this is the case, it is apparent that the communications applications of microcomputers will become increasingly impor- tant. We can expect communications to emerge as one of the criti- cal issues of the mid-1980s. Part lI of this report probes the implications of this technology push. John Bennett discusses its meaning for the managers of information systems (IS). In short, the IS manager must improve service or lose. Bennett describes some of the tools now available to the manager to improve the productivity of the IS department. He also describes the reactions of IS managers to the rapid growth in microcomputer use occurring in their companies: Pro- liferation inevitably raises the issue of control, specifically con- tro] of data. To those who ask the question "Why control?" the answer heard most often is: "Because in two years' time the data that is recognized as a critical resource of this corporation will not be in my machine, but will be on everybody else's desk. My chief executive is going to turn to me and say, 'How in the Florid did you ever get us into this mess?' " Bennett also points out that a major part of the job of the IS manager is to open the gates and facilitate access to corporate data by a variety of different systems, including microcomputers. Related to this is the need for IS managers to take responsibility for educating management. Although it is a significant departure from their traditional role of information processing, more and more the responsibility of IS managers to educate is being termed critical to their success. Bennett outlines a very successful pro- gram at United Technologies to educate 1,000 senior managers. Finally, Bennett raises the issue of security as one of the major

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6 MANAGING MICROCOMPUTERS worries of the Is manager. Horror stories abound in this area. I know one IS manager who put his career in jeopardy by walking around his executive suite and picking up floppy disks left on the top of file cabinets. When he took them back to his office, he found that he had all of the corporation's recent and projected financial data, the latest competitive analysis, and some sensitive data about personnel salaries for the leacling 100 people in the corpora- tion. People were leaving sensitive data around! on floppy flicks that they would never leave arounc! on a piece of paper. This repre- sents a whole different set of security issues from what we have clealt with for the last 20 years in managing information systems, and we have to learn the differences fast. By 1990 the workstation will probably be as common as the telephone. Managing this change has significant implications for organizations. Ray Kline reports on what the fecleral government is doing in its Managed Innovation Program. His "stick-and-carrot" meta- phor is particularly appropriate to describe the control-support system of the government's program. While the imposition of standards and restrictions on users is necessary, users can be of- fered in return more support for their work. Such support includes easier procurement procedures, and new tools for education. James B air examines some of the implications of small com- puter technology for managerial support. He describes a major shift away from a very specialized awareness in information tech- nology to a mass awareness in our society and the implications of this shift within corporations and between corporations and society. B air also underlines the importance of communications and the need for the microcomputer business to support communications. This idea has been echoed by many others in the field of executive support. In the early days we coined the term "clecision support system." In the late 1960s and earI-y 1970s we hack a rather naive notion that decisions were the executive activity that needled sup- port. Later research pointer! out, however, that executives spend far more time communicating than making decisions. Instead of decision support systems we must talk about communications support systems, or perhaps learning support systems, or man- agement support systems, or just plain support systems. The real task is to bridge the gap between technology and people by uncler- stan(ling what people do that needs supporting. dim Bair gives us another insight in this area. He says he has

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GETTING THE MOST OUT OF MICROS 7 spent a great deal of time trying to figure out how to measure productivity, only to discover that nobody wants to measure it anymore. I suspect that many of us have as an objective the im- provement of "productivity," something we have not defined and cannot measure. We all intuitively understanc! that using the technology to improve productivity is a worthy objective. But what floes that mean? How do you know when you've done it? How does it apply to our organizations? There is an increased reluctance to hone in on what productivity is. At the same time there is a great move to double it! Part III explores some specific and vital management issues. Alastair Omand one of the few senior IS people who report to the executive committee of a very large corporation believes there are two major issues raised by microcomputers in organiza- tions that the chief executive officer (CEO) should really worry about. The first is data management and its associated problems of accessibility, compatibility, and security. For this he recom- mends putting a person in a position of organizational responsi- bility for the corporation's data. The CEO's second worry is the shift in skill sets another variation on the persistent theme of education. Other contributors clear with this theme from the per- spective of the effects of microcomputers on the entire culture of the organization, but the point made by all of the contributors is that top management, and chief executives in particular, must worry about how this technology will change their organizations. Their users must become clevelopers and managers. They must keep up with shifting technical trends and watch for the changing role of information systems in their organizations. Other important issues, according to Omand, should be left to the line management of the organization to handle. Product pro- liferation, or "option shock," as John Diebold calls it, causes con- cern about "connectivity." Will we be able to interconnect every- one? Will we be able to supply adequate technical support? Will we have huge duplication of effort between people who do not talk to each other in the organization? Omanc3 recommends that we leave these problems to the users, keeping them in charge, letting them take advantage of technological change. Acquisition practice raises another set of concerns. There are questions about cost justification and how to achieve good cost savings, what interface to have with vendors, buying equipment that becomes obsolete very fast, and trouble with license restric

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8 M:4NAGI~G MICROCOMPUTERS tions on software. For all of these very real issues Omand rec- ommends that the chief executive officer make use of existing mechanisms like the purchasing department ant! the control mechanisms through the budget. Roger Sisson views the discussion on microcomputers as really a discussion about end-user computing. He suggests that putting motivated people together with good tools and relevant data will produce what he calls "distributed creativity." In other words, looking at data seems to facilitate innovative thinking. Distributed creativity is not a term that would have fared very well in the early 1970s. A decade later, however, we are getting used to this sort of concept. It is tied in with the theme of unIeash- ing creativity and the notion that something very fundamental is now going on that we do not really understand. It has been brought on by new tools, data, and the technology push. Part IV presents a number of case studies that suggest the pos- sibilities for dealing on a day-to-day basis with the challenges of the microcomputer revolution. Norman Epstein sees control as the overriding concern for management. From this comes his con- cept of personal computing rather than personal computers. Other contributors to this section suggest alternative approaches to the dual questions of control and support. In most cases the vehicle chosen is less important than what actually happens in support of people. Several essays in this volume refer to Gibson and Nolan's stages of growth curve, which can also be called a technology learning curve. Gibson and Nolan first published their article on the four stages of growth at a time when we were approaching maturity in the earliest data processing technology learning curve. We are now on another technology learning curve involv- ing personal computing. We hear much talk about the first and third stages on this curve: getting started, and getting control. We do not fine! many people worrying about the second stage, getting value. Perhaps this is because value is a difficult word that, like productivity, defies definition and measurement. But the question will not go away. Why are the technology pushers doing this to us, and what value can we get out of it for whom? I believe value can be derived for at least three levels of people in organizations, but for each level opportunities are different. As the leader of the organization, the senior executive can set the

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GETTING THE MOST OUT OF MICROS 9 culture and change the organization. At another level, the func- tional managers need to develop an intuition about the business about what works and what doesn't work. By and large, they are the people who achieve the operating results of the organization. At a thirc! level, there are analysts who are clearly the prime tar- get for the new tools of the technology. How are we to derive value for these three defined users of microcomputer technology? Do we rely on some sort of invisible hand? Should we merely give them the tools and say, " Go do something useful with this elegant tech- nology?" To what extent shouIc} we focus on data management, on security, on controls, on education concerning what the toot can do? We are left with many unanswered questions. However, I would be amazed if they were answered at this stage because I do not think that we yet know where we are going with the technology. And if you don't know where you are going you can get there any way you like. These papers reflect the candor of informed experts in the field who are not afraid to admit that "we don't know where we are going." There's an old Zen saying: "In the minct of the beginner, there are infinite possibilities; in the mind of the expert, there are very few." Right now, we shouIc! beware of experts who claim to have all the answers; at this stage we really can't know what we are getting into. Perhaps one word we need to hear more often is "vision." Orga- nizations must have a strategic purpose for this technology. They must head toward some goal. As a whole, the papers in this vol- ume may present what appears to be a dichotomy between two broad themes. On the one hand, there is the very clear theme of using automation to increase productivity. This goal raises very familiar management issues of planning, organization, and con- trol. The response is relatively straightforward. We can apply the tools of planning and management that we have learned over the last several decacles, and they ought to stand us in good stead. We will manage our way through it, if that is where we are going. On the other hand, some of these authors suggest that our goal has to do with unleashing capability, with leveraging a person's mince, with innovation and creativity. If this is the goal I am not at all sure we know how to manage. Perhaps it is appropriate at this point to hand out tools and say, "You figure out what to do with them." Perhaps this is a time of intelligent experimentation, a

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10 MAN-A GIVING MlCROCOA1PUTERS "seed time," a period of learning. Or perhaps both approaches should be followed together to see what happens if we unleash the creativity of a million computer-literate people. Most importantly, I believe we must pause for a moment to examine what we are trying to accomplish with this technology in our individual organizations, that is, where we want to go. Clearly, something very important and very fundamental is going on that we do not yet fully understand. It is an extraordinarily interesting, stimulating, and exciting time. ~ am only uncomfort- able when ~ hear people predicting their future instead of choos- ing it. This is my argument with the concept of technology push. We must be sure to confront the dichotomy between productivity and creativity. Do we want one or the other? Or do we want both? And what does that mean? We must choose what we want, not just predict what we might get. Depending on our choice, there are fundamentally different implications for different manage- ment styles, the changing role of the IS manager, data, security, value, and how to manage in an era of intelligent experimentation. The attributes of success that many of the contributors to this volume discuss have some common themes. There is the concept of marketing to users. There is the concept of users and the need to provide education and other support systems for them. There are the operational issues of security and data management. There are the finance issues and questions of cost justification. There are some issues of administrative responsibility. Further, there are human resource issues: how do we educate people and what kind of people do we need for this new era? These are, in fact, the major headings for a business plan: mar- keting, operations, finance, administration, human resources. But this is a plan for a business within the business. It is the business of making microcomputers or any personal computing technology work to support the people within the organization. Like any business, its primary obj ective is getting business value. This must be the ultimate objective for us all.