Is the Need for Speed Real?

Using encryption to make on-line business processes secure, it’s possible to do lots of interesting things that weren’t possible before. But if you’re not careful to realign your business processes, it’s also possible to erase any gain that these secure, on-line processes might have offered.

encryptionimportantWhen I bought my first house, I was surprised at the amount of paperwork being faxed back and forth at the last minute. Puzzled, I asked one of the real estate agents involved in the transaction what they did before the days of fax machines.

“Oh,” she said, “we didn’t need these things back then.”

Apparently the amount of paperwork needed had kept pace with the advance in technology. No additional houses were sold because of the new technology, so no one was actually making more money from any possible efficiency that the new technology might have allowed.

When I eventually came across Russell Acroff’s classic 1967 paper “Management Misinformation Systems,” it didn’t take long to make the connection between what Acroff talked about and my experience with buying that house.

In particular Acroff pointed out that it’s common to see a mismatch between what managers actually need and what IT systems provide for them. In particular, he noted that systems are designed under the assumption that managers lack relevant information, while the real problem that they fact is too much irrelevant information. IT systems that provide additional irrelevant information don’t increase productivity in any way. A recent article in The Economist (“The creed of speed,” December 5, 2015) seems to suggest that we haven’t learned much in the 50 years since Acroff first noted that using IT systems doesn’t necessarily create any measurable benefit.

In particular, the article in The Economist notes that although everyone feels that the pace of business has increased dramatically due to the use of new technologies, it’s actually difficult, if not impossible, to find any data that supports this.

We’re no longer using fax machines to get additional information that we really don’t need. Instead, we’re using the internet and mobile devices to get additional information that we really don’t need. And when we do this, we don’t get any more work done any faster than we did before we had the newer technologies. The net result is that we’re not really benefitting from these technologies like we should.

There are lots of business processes that can be made much more efficient by using today’s technology, and encryption is an important part of making the use of these technologies secure. But when you do that, don’t forget that it’s also important to think about exactly how the new processes can be used to add real value. Otherwise, you’ll be spending lots of money in ways that end up not creating any net benefit. Let’s avoid doing that, so that next time The Economist looks at the use of IT in business world they will be surprised by how much value it can really add.

About the Author:
Luther Martin is the HPE Security – Data Security Distinguished Technologist and has worked in the information security industry for over 26 years and is a frequent contributor to the ISSA Journal.

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