Archive for the ‘Business Informatics’ Category

The significance of Business Informatics

May 1, 2008 2 comments

Motivation: Exploring the significance of understanding the language of IT users and the language of IT-“builders” to improve the success rate of effective and efficient IT solutions.
Problem statement: Too many issues arise from having incompatible people trying to communicate with each other in different “languages”, resulting in less than desirable outcomes or even outright failures in whatever it is people try to achieve by using IT.

It is funny that I start such a post and claim that I am very attracted to this particular field of expertise while I have recently reconfirmed, the hard way, that my ability to simplify some IT concepts to non IT folks is still laughably bad. In my defense, what I am currently working on (and trying to convince others that it is significant) does not actually exist, as far as I know anyway, which makes explaining it in as few words as possible without confusing or scaring the hell out of the people I want to reach that much more difficult.

“Please, real men don’t make excuses. Stop your whining!”

Well, let us get to the meat of the blog post then. What is business informatics and why is it important? In a nutshell, every time you think of a product that requires users to do something with it on a regular basis, you need to make sure that that particular system is designed in such a way that they would actually not feel like throwing their PC’s out of the nearest windows while working on it!

“Well duh, then just ask them what they want.”

Indeed, we need to ask them what they want, but therein lies the real problem. In a lot of cases, they do not know:

  • What they want
  • How they want it
  • What is exactly possible

I mean, it is not like you are asking them to imagine and describe their favorite food or something. You are essentially asking them to tell you every little thing they (have to) do at work and how they would like to have that work and look in detail using “computers” (e.g. information systems). So on one side, we have people who have never documented what their daily work routine is like, down to details such as what they retrieve exactly and what they input exactly when and in what systems for what purposes. Fortunately, they should be able to do that on their own given enough time. The real problem is that they are mostly uninformed concerning “computer stuff” other than knowing how to log in Windows, browse through and store/retrieve folders, search stuff on Google, do the occasional chatting, download music and frequently honor adult websites with their presence. “Or people who have never spent more than 10 minutes playing around with HTML code but think blogging makes them IT savvy.” Oh, and did I mention they are clueless as to what they exactly want with work related software and how the GUI should look like on their computer screen? These things are normally only known after having worked with it for an extensive period of time, after learning how to work them, getting used to them and either do get used to do or realize that that is not an option. But when it has not been installed and used yet? Yep, no way that is going to happen for the common user. And why should it? They are not getting paid to understand and keep themselves up to date on the latest information systems and their effectivity, efficiency and user friendliness.

“So we’re banking on them having IT hobbies or something? Sounds risky to me.”

The other half of this dream team is the IT programmer, who is completely clueless as to what the future IT users do and why that is important, considering their daily work consists of programming features and modeling the occasional UML diagrams or whatever models they use to make that programming simpler to manage and program. They do not care or know how to care about business processes, they do not care or know how to care about users possibly (certainly actually) having to deal with a changing environment, a change of tools, a change of their daily routine. They do not care or know how to care about properly getting the right information out of users, properly documenting it in a format that said users can read back to provide feedback, give presentations in such a form that the IT users will not be confused with the slang or programming buzz, hold workshops to help the users prepare for what it to come and receive feedback to make it more user friendly, do stuff that makes the future IT user comfortable that this IT project is leading them to the IT system of their desires. And why should they? They did not sign up to be project leaders or managers, they are the technical workforce, the construction workers of IT systems. Their job is not to design a house based on what the customers want, but the ones that build it based on a construction plan. Nobody, least of all the programmer himself, would put a programmer in front of a group of business managers and operational users and have him explain these guys why the system rocks and how it will make their daily work easier. That is a car wreck waiting to happen.

So we have 2 groups of people: the future IT users who do not have a clue about IT systems and the IT builders who do not have a clue about business processes. Their goal is to get an IT system that not only supports, but also improves the efficiency and effectivity of the core business processes, which is largely carried out by the users. See the problem?

“Not for car dealers. Unless they are using their salesmen to repair the cars.”

Right, or use mechanics to sell their cars. Therefore, the solution is someone who speaks both languages but freaks out neither side. That someone is a Business Informatics professional. The guy who knows something about everything but not everything about something. The guy who simplifies complicated matters to the “layman” and specifies complicated matters to the specialist. And I am clearly not just talking about the design phase, but basically anything that involves IT and IT users, making things easier or more detailed for them. Indeed, I want to be that guy. I am going to be that guy.

“Yet here you are, just another blogger wasting his time writing about what you want to be, without actually being it.”

Hey that is harsh. As I said before, informing the public by simplifying otherwise complicated (IT) matters is an important task of a Business Informatics professional, too.

“Yeye, get to work!”

Well, this may not seem all that relevant nor interesting to your readers, but the next time you have a “who the hell designed this software in such an uneasy way!” or “Why does this not work the way I want it to work!” moments, you will be wishing you had a Business Informatics professional on the job!