Organisations large and small need to maximise their technologies’ potential, to integrate technology with current and future needs, to know how to apply technology to gain a competitive advantage and make the organisation more flexible and responsive, to know when to keep pace with technological progress on their own or with partners. These issues all lead to questions of how technology strategy forms in organisations.
When you connect to the Web, you implicitly adopt the strategy on which it is based. Nevertheless, there was a time when you would have to think explicitly about choosing a strategy for communicating between computers, because there were alternatives available. The difference between direction and focus is one of timing and detail. Direction is about the broad, long-term goal; focus is about the immediate decisions of what to do and what not to do. Technology strategists are among the most important actors because, by definition, they decide on the allocation of resources to technologies, features, and so on. It is the technology strategists who change the world, not the technology. We think more in terms of ‘socio-technology’, where a technology is interlinked with people, groups, organisations and institutions (Fowles, 2005).
But for too long new applications have been added over the years in pursuit of short-term gain or because board-level intervention came from the CEO reading an article about what a great thing apps were and how every company should have them – with little or no thought given on how to integrate them or how they should work within the wider infrastructure.
It is a problem made worse within companies with decentralised purchasing power, or within hospitals where many clinics have power and inclination to further their own interests (Mintzberg et al. 1998, p. 261), operating as highly decentralised organisations of experts. So the oncological director buys the latest radiology system, which promises productivity gains and much better diagnostic abilities. But of course no one has told him that the data from this new system will have to go into and come out of an ageing hospital information system (HIS) or a database that hosts inventories etc. This usually results in unexpected investment in middleware or integration server technology to glue the systems together. Whatever the particular case, the reality for most organisations is that integration is an inescapable, resource-hungry aspect of their IT strategy. The main challenge is to find the most effective and efficient way of enabling integration necessary to ensure that systems can seamlessly support the business. Systems are not integrated because there is no strategy for consistency.