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The Information Revolution

Information Revolution

Peter Drucker points out that that this is not the first Information Revolution, this is "The NEXT Information Revolution,"(1) the fourth Information Revolution.

"The next information revolution is well underway. But it is not happening where information scientists, information executives, and the information industry in general are looking for it. It is not a revolution in technology, machinery, techniques, software or speed. It is a revolution in CONCEPTS."

He observes that the first information revolution was the invention of writing 5 or 6 thousand years ago originally in Mesopotamia, the second was the invention of books (scrolls), originally in China as early as 1300 B.C., and the third, Gutenberg's invention of the printing press and movable type between 1450 and 1455. We know little about the first two revolutions but in the third revolution, the cost and price reductions and the speed and extent of its spread were at least as great as those of the present, the fourth information revolution. He observes:

"(This) next information revolution asks, What is the MEANING of information, and what is its PURPOSE? And this is leading rapidly to redefining the tasks to be done with the help of information, and with it, to redefining the institutions that do these tasks.
"...It is forcing us to redefine what business enterprise actually is and should be.
"...(This) next information revolution has so far been largely ignored by the information establishment."
"The printing revolution (the Gutenberg press) immediately created a new and unprecedented class of information technologists ... in 1455 (the printers) flourished throughout Europe ... became great stars ... well known and revered all over Europe ... just as the names of the leading computer and software firms are recognized worldwide today. ... By 1580 or so, the printers, with their focus on technology had become ordinary craftsmen, respectable tradesmen to be sure, but definitely not of the upper class. ... This shift got underway the moment the new technology began to have an impact on the MEANING of information, and with it, on the meaning and function of the 15th century's key institutions such as the church and universities. It thus began at the same juncture at which we now find ourselves in the present information revolution as we undergo the shift in business information and, with it, the redefinition of the function and purpose of business.
"Is there a lesson in this for today's information technologists, the CIO's in organizations, the software designers and developers, the devotees of Moore's Law?"

Dick Nolan of Harvard Business School, postulated "the Four Stages of EDP Growth"(2) in 1973 where an Enterprise learning to install and manage the computer technology follows a classic four stage learning curve. He traced four "Growth Processes" over the four stages illustrating how they changed from Stage 1 Initiation through Stage 4 Maturity. In 1975, Dick extended the first Four Stages learning curve of "Assimilation of Computer Technology" to Six Stages(3) as in the Third Stage, a new learning curve is Initiated relating to the "Assimilation of Database Technology".

I would submit from my perspective forty years later, that the first curve is learning how to build and run systems whereas the second learning curve is learning how to design and manufacture the Enterprise (which requires a database to store the engineering design artifacts, the descriptive representations that constitute Enterprise Architecture). There is a "paradigm shift" from the technology (the container) to the Enterprise (the database contents of the container) just as observed by Drucker, the shift from the technologist to the content owner(1).

As long as the objective is to build and run systems, by definition, the proponents of such, the implementers, are relegated to entering into the "Service Cycle."

In that case, IT will always be a "solution in search of a problem." No wonder there is a perpetual "Alignment" problem. Engineering and Manufacturing Enterprises is vastly different from Building and Running Systems ... "who designed the Enterprise that the Manager runs?"(4)

Diagnosing Problems and Prescribing Solutions is the domain of the Professional whereas Implementing Systems and evaluating Results is the domain of the Trade, the Technologist. It is the advent of the Enterprise Ontology, the Zachman Framework, that makes Diagnosis and Prescription possible. Until an Ontology exists, there is no science, no discipline. Nothing is predictable and nothing is repeatable. All learning is by trial and error ... the processes are "best practices" ... what a person can learn by trial and error in a single lifetime.

Peter Drucker points out at the beginning of the Technology Revolution, the Technologists are hailed as heros and courted by Kings and Princes ... however, shortly they become common labor. It is the Content owners that are the prevailing Professionals. And, the "Next Information Revolution" is a revolution of Concepts ... not of technologies.

Drucker also points out in the article that the technology prognosticators including himself, made a fundamental error in judgement at the advent of the computer. They all predicted the computer would change the behavior of management. It didn't change the behavior of management at all. It changed the behavior of operations, not management. The computer became an accounting machine, processing the transactions of the Enterprise. It has not contributed to defining the next product, the changes in the market, where to invest capital, etc. These management issues are within the purview of "The Next Information Revolution" ... that is, in "forcing us to redefine what business enterprise actually is and should be", as depicted in its Enterprise Architecture.

I submit: Enterprise Architecture IS the "Issue of the Century".(5)

We must change the perception of Enterprise Architecture from one of being an IT model building exercise to be one of redefining the Enterprise and solving General Management problems and oh, by the way, in the process of solving General Management problems, defining Enterprise Architecture, engineering and then manufacturing the Enterprise to accommodate the dramatic increases in complexity and dramatic escalation of the rate of change that so dominate discussions of the Information Age, the "Next Information Revolution".

If dramatic escalation of complexity and the rate of change are the predominant characteristics of the Information Age, then clearly, Enterprise Architecture IS the issue of the Century. Seven thousand years of history establish that the only known strategy for accommodating complexity and change is ARCHITECTURE. If the object you are trying to create is complex to the extent that you cannot see it at the level of definition required to create it, you will have to describe it ... ARCHITECTURE. And, if you ever want to change what you have created, the baseline for managing change are the descriptive representations required to create it ... ARCHITECTURE.

ARCHITECTURE is the key to complexity and change.

I hope this gives you a sense of urgency to change your Enterprise Architecture paradigm ... it is NOT about IT building models for implementations!

  • (1) "The Next Information Revolution" by Peter F. Drucker. August 24, 1998. Forbes ASAP.
  • (2) "Managing the Computer Resource: A Stage Hypothesis" by Richard L. Nolan, Harvard University. Communications of the ACM July 1973 Vol.16 No.7
  • (3) "Thoughts About the Fifth Stage" by Richard L. Nolan ACM SIGMIS Database Vol 7 No. 2 1975
  • (4) "Designing the Future", a speech by Jay W. Forrester at Seville University 12/15/98.
  • (5) "Enterprise Architecture: The Issue of the Century" by John A. Zachman. Database Programming and Design. 1998.
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