Its never just about picking the best information technology

Reporting on the experiences of a Geekcorps‘ volunteer on using open source software with poor communities in Africa, Jeremy Allison from the ZDnet blogs shares an important lesson about information technology adoption:

"The local ‘computer support person’ resented a solution that was so easy to use that it undermined the power and prestige they received by being the person to consult when a Windows computer had problems."

Hmm. Sound familiar? Analysing the story further, he concludes:

"Sometimes, technical excellence isn’t enough. Linux and Open Source software can fail badly in the real world not because of technical issues, but because of economic issues."

But I’m not here to bash Linux, because I think the same can be said about selecting from commercial information technology options too.

In an organisation, the types of factors at play in this process can include:

  • Financial – the CFO likes vendor Y better because they will let us finance the software and pay it off over three years;
  • Political – if we support solution B, rather than the better solution A, our department or team will be in a stronger position; and
  • Social – we like the people at company X.

And when we role into implementation, variations of these same themes pop up time and time again at department, team and also at an individual level. So, just because a particular tool works in one organisation or situation, it doesn’t automatically mean it will work elsewhere.

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