What is Applied Information Technology

To remind ourselves what Applied Information Technology is, we need to go back in time to the start of the 1980’s. At the start of this decade we witnessed the creation of two innovative products which gave birth to the information technology industry. The first product is the Apple II microcomputer, which introduced the world to the concept of personal computing. The second product is Visicalc, the spreadsheet software. Visicalc is the original spreadsheet. Nothing of it’s kind existed before.

The combination of these two products brought computing into business management. The Apple II made computing affordable. Up until the early 80’s, computing was a privilege of academia, the military and extremely rich corporations. The machines were huge mainframes which were utilised on a time share or booking system. What ever resources you used, you were billed for. The apple II was different, it sat on your desk and was all yours for just $3000.

Visicalc screenshotVisicalc is the invention of a Harvard Business school student Dan Bricklin. Bricklin wanted a method to make financial calculations as effective as possible. The most effective way at the time was to use large blackboards ,some even spanning several rooms, which were divided into a matrix. Each cell in the matrix was identified by coordinates. Here is the back breaker. If you changed or added any values to any cells. This meant you had to recalculate potentially hundreds of cells on the blackboard. This meant rubbing out values and then chalking in the new values, hoping that you have got your math right. Visicalc became the virtual blackboard with instant answers, and no more rubbing out and chalking in of values.
Visicalc enabled experimentation and “What if Scenarios”. Calculations now take seconds rather than hours. This allowed the business manager to model the finances of the business and quickly make commercial decisions based on how the model reacts. “What happens when my supplier increases costs during summer months?”, “What will my operating costs be when I increase production by 5%?”, these are the sort of questions that could be answered in seconds.

In my view, this is the essence of information technology. This is information technology being applied. An everyday task has been revolutionised and made trivial. The benefits are clearly visible:

  • Huge reduction in manual effort.
  • Greater accuracy of information.
  • Huge reduction in time to obtain information to make commercial decisions.
  • Greater detail can now be included in calculations/models to increase profit margins.
  • Business managers can now “play” with information to find patterns.
  • Why the reminder

    FrustrationA lot has happened since the 1980’s. You will be hard pressed to find a business without some form of Information Technology within it. Most business managers have realised the advantages of using technology to manage business. To fulfill this need, a large number of suppliers have emerged to fulfill every requirement. This in itself is a huge competitive business with suppliers fighting to be noticed amongst it’s customers. The products have become complex and more expensive. Imaginative licensing agreements have been created to extract even more money from the customer. You now need someone trained to manage licensing agreements to ensure that you are in compliance. This also causes the “Gold rush syndrome” amongst Information Technology recruiters,trainers and Information Technology support staff.

    With the greater dependence on Information Technology attracts the criminal mind to look for opportunities to defraud or vandalise. To protect these systems, the business manager is forced to buy yet more expensive products with expensive support contracts to guard against virus’s, spam and hackers.

    The problem with these changes is that the advantages which information technology provides have now diminished. The focus is no longer on applying information technology to release benefits,but managing the systems. “Reduce the support costs”, “Do I really have to upgrade?”,”I can only afford 200 users”.

    Information technology has become a burden on the bottom line of business. My mission is to allow business managers to focus, once again, on running their business, and not managing their information systems. In other words, Applying Information Technology to provide high value benefits.

    Grab a copy of Visicalc and relive the era of applied information technology.


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