The Information Paradox: Realizing the Business Benefits of Information Technology

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"Considerable change has transpired in the years since the first edition of this book was published, yet the paradox remains - investments in IT-enabled business change are still not being consistently translated into business value. This is the Information Paradox - the conflict between the widely held belief that information, and investment in IT to provide that information, is a "good thing" and the all too frequent reality that we cannot demonstrate a connection between IT investments and business results." "John Thorp and Fujitsu Consulting have continued to work with many clients around the world, implementing the Benefits Realization Approach - a unique, client-tested framework that introduces a benefits-focused mindset. Their experience has led to the understanding that the issues with IT value are merely a symptom of a broader business value problem, and to the development of a new, expanded approach - Enterprise Value Management." "A completely new Afterword outlines this new approach which goes beyond the challenge of IT value to provide a comprehensive value-driven organizational governance process. It builds on the foundation of benefits realization to help organizations manage value in an increasingly uncertain and real-time business environment. It takes readers to a new level of understanding."--BOOK JACKET.Title Summary field provided by Blackwell North America, Inc. All Rights Reserved

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John Thorp's book, "The Information Paradox", is about the conflict between widely held belief that investment in IT is a good thing and the reality that this, all to often, cannot be demonstrated. My own experience as a CIO affirms the challenges and experiences described in the book. It gives valuable insight into what needs to change to realise value from IT investments and how to go about it. The book describes the Benefits Realisation Approach in terms of three fundamentals and three necessary conditions aimed at changing the way people think and manage. It extends this approach with the concept of Enterprise Value Management to stress that the major effort and challenge that organisations must face is implementing not technology but change.
The three fundamentals of the Benefits Realisation Approach are:
- a shift from project management to program management to produce clearly identified business results;
- a shift from free-for-all competition for resources to disciplined, strategic portfolio management; and
- a shift from traditional methods of tracking project delivery to full cycle governance to turn concepts into realised benefits.
The three necessary conditions are:
- activist accountability that includes the concept of ownership;
- relevant measurements linked to contribution to outcomes and to lines of accountability; and
- proactive management of change that is visibly led by senior management.
This book was a key source for many of the concepts used in the IT Governance Institute's Val IT framework.
Some hard hitting quotes below from the book demonstrate the challenges faced by CIOs:
"Management thinking has failed to understand the implications of the evolving role of IT in business and how critical IT decisions will affect elements of the overall business system beyond technology."
"The persistence of the industrial-age mind-set leads to what we call 'silver bullet thinking' about the capabilities of IT - and, more specifically, about the power of IT alone to deliver business results. Organisations rush to purchase IT 'silver bullets' in the form of customised business solutions, enterprise application packages and other ready-to-wear IT solutions in the naive belief that they come neatly packaged and stamped benefits inside.' ... the magic bullet theory does not tell us who should aim and fire the gun."
"An industrial-age management practice that encourages silver bullet thinking is the use of one-off business cases to support IT investment decisions."
"Another facet of silver bullet thinking is that most, if not all, of the delivery and implementation focus is on the IT project, with blind faith that any other required changes will fall into place."
"Decisions are generally made in the environment of a competitive free-for-all among stand-alone IT projects, each championed by an executive sponsor interested in pushing his or her pet project....the result is that too many IT decisions are made with no greater chance of success than the average gambler in a casino."
"Tough questioning is critical to get rid of silver bullet thinking and lose the industrial-age mind-set that is proving extremely costly to organisations."
"Senior business sponsors must take ownership of the program and accept clear accountability for delivering benefits."
"... in the case of enterprise application packages, our experience suggests that of the work involved in delivering benefits, 80 to 95 percent lies in the areas of organisation, processes and people - on the business side."
"CIOs will have to leave behind some familiar roles - like chief magician of information technology, and honourable head scapegoat!"
"Business sponsors must join CIOs in leaving behind some outdated roles...that of senior cheerleader, who waves magic pompoms internally as the IT team performs more miracles."
 

About the author (2003)

John Thorp is a vice-president in the Strategic Consulting Practice at Fujitsu Consulting and heads the Fujitsu Consulting's Center for Strategic Leadership. He is an internationally sought-after management consultant and a frequent speaker with over 35 years of experience in information management. He lives in Victoria, B.C. Canada. Fujitsu Consulting is a leading provider of management and technology consulting services with more than 70 offices worlwide.

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