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Dickeson--Join the Information Age

April 1999
We're shaking our heads. We just cannot believe that the U.S. economy continues to flourish month after month, year after year. Low unemployment rates, negligible inflation, low interest costs, soaring productivity, a surplus in place of a deficit, all of this and more, while Russia, Japan, Southeast Asia, Brazil and other countries are sinking in recession. There are as many explanations for this economic phenomenon as there are economists!

There are a number of factors operating and interacting. But I'm most impressed with this suggested reason: the impact that IT—Information Technology—is now having on the economy; IT has replaced manufacturing as the driving force of our commerce and enterprise.

We've long suspected and predicted that this would happen. The United States, for the moment at least, is leading the world with computer usage, database systems, Internet linkage, software applications, e-commerce and, most importantly, knowledge applications.

Four Phases of Info Age
I recommend that you read Jeff Papows' "enterprise.com" for a brilliant marshalling of the evidence of what has, and is, happening with IT and the world economy—particularly U.S. leadership in the Information Age. From the aspect of our printing industry, I found Papows' analysis of the four phases of Information Technology enlightening.

We start with data, move to information, then to knowledge and, finally, to work. Let's change "work" to "execution," and we coin the acronym: DIKE for Data, Information, Knowledge, Execution.

Think about this for a moment. Even with all our installed computing power of the '80s and early '90s, we questioned whether computerization really had a "payback." We mostly did things we'd been doing in the same way we'd always done 'em. The spread sheet and word processing programs may have changed our lives, but we still did business as we had for years. We prepared lists in piles of sprocket-perfed printouts.

That was our "raw data" phase. With the growing sophistication of databases, we began conversion of raw data to information by filtering, sorting, grouping, summarizing, calculating and formatting. We analyzed, looked for trends, applied statistical formulae, used regression charting. We called upon new techniques such as OLAP (On Line Analytical Processing) to enable us to spot co-variances or correlations we hadn't identified before.

Knowledge power became real in the mid-'90s. Coupled with the World Wide Web on the Internet, the Knowledge Genie was out of the bottle! Knowledge became the action energizer. We had paid our computer dues and entered the Age of Knowledge Power. The Ages of the Hunter, the Herdsmen, the Farmer and the Industrialist are gone. The Age of Information is upon us. The KW (Knowledge Worker) is now key to enterprise. Has our printing industry kept pace with the economic change?

 

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