CHAPTER 5

Turbulence in Information Technology

The movement from static to dynamic, from changeless perfection to continual change … shows up as the crux of scientific thinking about complex systems, poised on the edge of chaos.

RICHARD LANHAM, THE ELECTRONIC WORD (THE UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO PRESS, 1993)

Stated most broadly, information technology (IT) is the application of abstractions that are designed to enhance the ability of people and organizations to solve problems. By applying a variety of mechanisms, IT enhances the utility of information in the performance of operational, tactical, or strategic tasks. This outcome is achieved by analyzing the information needs of people as they grapple with problem-solving tasks and translating this analysis into an array of computational aids. IT serves the business by enabling its current goals and strategic ambitions while enlarging its plate of future opportunities.

As practitioners, consultants, researchers, and educators, the authors have been struck by the turbulence ripping through the fabric of contemporary information technology. We consider turbulence to be a state of sudden disorder. It suggests unanticipated and abrupt changes in the status quo. One expects some degree of turbulence before boarding an aircraft. However, once airborne, the moment to moment changes in flight stability remain unexpected and frequently catch us by surprise regardless of our frequent flier status.

In this regard, IT turbulence is analogous ...

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