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I've been online since 1971 and I like to smoothe the way for everyone else. Among other things I co-founded Sympatico, the world's first easy-to-use Internet service (and Canada's largest).

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Thursday, November 09, 2006

Web 2.0 and IT departments

A couple of days ago I attended Toronto’s second Enterprise 2.0 Camp. My thanks to Tom Purves for organizing this, and to Firestoker and PROFIT Magazine for sponsoring.

I’m not going to blog about the event in general, but a comment Tom made during his presentation is something I’d like to talk about. Tom remarked that IT departments like Web-based applications because they’re easier to support: no need to install or update software on all those PCs. I’ve heard this comment before, and I can well believe it.

But are the IT departments doing themselves out of jobs? Once might respond that applications still need to be installed and maintained on corporate servers. But more and more the enterprise is becoming dependent on Web-based services outside the firewall. Knowledge workers depend on Google and, for instance, and as other services become available that are helpful for their jobs they’ll use them too. The IT department might install something locally, but probably not for a while, and even then why not just use the application that’s available to you even when you’re not in the office? (Sure, there are VPNs, but using them is an inconvenience.) Also, if you’re working on a project with vendors or other partners, it’s easiest to use applications that aren’t behind anyone’s firewall.

In the late 1970s I worked for what was then called a timesharing company, I.P. Sharp Associates. We sold access to applications that ran on our servers (as they would now be called), and because the public Internet didn’t yet exist we had our own far-reaching network (supposedly the world’s largest private packet network). A lot of our business came from corporate users who wanted to get things done and couldn’t wait for their always-backlogged IT departments to provide what was needed. So in effect we helped them do an end run around their IT departments. As business-oriented applications increasingly become available on the Web, this will happen again, but on a tremendously larger scale.

Score another point for Nicholas Carr’s Does IT Matter?

UPDATE: since I posted the above, Business 2.0 Magazine has written a similar story. You can read it here.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

interesting you worked for IP Sharp, they did some MOD stuff (navy) a long time ago (circa '82) with IBM/360 stuff and a lot more in the West too !!

you should tell me your stories:)-

Tuesday, November 14, 2006 at 7:14:00 p.m. EST  
Blogger Rohan Jayasekera said...

Sure, Peter, I have lots of good stories about I.P. Sharp Associates. (For those of you who have never heard of it, part of the reason is that it was bought by Reuters in 1987 and its name disappeared. I became a Reuter employee and suddenly found myself getting 5 weeks of vacation a year, something almost unheard of in North America.)

I never worked on any of the secret stuff myself. I did work in the Ottawa office during 1983, but by the time I moved to the head office in Toronto my security clearance had still not come through from the federal government, nearly a year after the application had been filed. It wasn't even a particularly high level of clearance, I'm sure.

Speaking of which, I do have a story that is not related to I.P. Sharp but is related to Canadian security clearances. In 1991 or 1992 a CSIS agent came to my home (after arranging this appointment by phone) to interview me about a friend of mine who had applied for an upgrade of her security clearance from Top Secret to Top Secret Special Access. I was her "long-term reference", someone who had known her for at least 10 years. Well, this agent asked me various questions about whether my friend had any Communist leanings. This was after the Berlin Wall had ended. I kept waiting for questions about sympathies to the Palestinian cause, etc. There were none.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006 at 1:15:00 p.m. EST  

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