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Not wanted: on-the-job training

Not wanted: on-the-job training

Rosewarne is dismayed at the number of people who knock on his door in pursuit of consultancy work, yet readily admit they have no knowledge of Customs or Immigration work. “Why can’t they take the trouble to learn? Why do they believe that we will bring them up to speed at our expense?” As far as Rosewarne is concerned, aspirants must come into his office “running” — fully briefed on his business and with an in-depth understanding. Rosewarne is bemused that consultants and others who have done little or no research on the nature of Customs or Immigration still want to come into his office and tell him about his “problems”. (The “problems” preoccupation syndrome he also blames on the Y2K era.)

“In the modern era the IT shop, and those within it, must be looking for opportunities. This fixation on day-to-day problems merely leads to the inward-looking IT shop, a problem in itself.”

If the tech department can do everything, why the preoccupation with it?

If a consultant wants a serious hearing, he or she must be prepared to put concepts first and technology last, Rosewarne asserts. “Any strategy must be built around capability.”

Technology issues should be fined down. For example, if you go in at the business end and find a weak link, then the logical question is: “We have defined a weak link. Is there technology available that will remedy this weak link?”

In a wider sense, Rosewarne comments, the question should be, “How can we lift this piece of IT up into the business?”

The easiest path

Roserwarne felt something was out of kilter when he attended a recent demonstration. The word “data” was used over and over again. The eyes of the audience became ever more glazed as “data” became ever more repetitive.

Then he saw the point. If only the word “information” was used in place of the word data, as in “seeing the information”, there would be a closer relationship to the subject under discussion. Often, he believes, strategies and business schemes as a whole are missed simply because those concerned cannot grasp them. The reason they are not grasped is because they are inadequately articulated. “The technology must follow the people. It is not the other way around.”

Similarly, many grand plans are not grasped because those outlining them get lost in detail. For example, if an organisation sets out on a scheme in which the browser will be used for everything, then it should simply say that the browser will be used for everything and that there will be no other access, he advises.

Rosewarne is keen on the need to “socialise” IT endeavours. “IT strategy becomes so much easier if it is at first socialised,” he observes.

“Social” is drawn from the Latin word meaning ally. So Rosewarne, in effect, is recommending the industry to do what it has claimed to be doing for the past 30 years or so — treating its human participants as allies and friends. Being user-friendly, in other words.

The obfuscation that is an accepted part of the industry contributes greatly to the impression that IT infrastructure is an overhead, a cost, Rosewarne points out. This word-soup has clouded IT’s true role, that of an “enabler”.

When Rosewarne talks about technology “following people”, he is not entirely talking in terms of imagery. The technology in physical form must follow them as they go about their work. A great deal of Customs’ work is, of course, carried out far beyond the office. Indeed, Customs is unusual in the institutional world in that many of those employed there are encouraged to stay away from its office buildings. The search groups, known as rummagers, are the best known of these roving operational groups.

Rosewarne wants to “enable” the rummagers with information that will “follow” them around, as opposed to having them to return an office or headquarters to get it.

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