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Why Information Technology is Like Exercise

I must confess that I don't like to exercise, especially when it's purely for health reasons. I haven't run far and long enough to become addicted to the runner's high. I feel better after I run for the rest of the day, but it still takes effort to get up early and get out there. For me, exercise is best in retrospect.

On the other hand, I am a huge gearhead. I like researching the latest camping equipment, golf clubs, fishing lures, backpacks and even running shoes and socks. It feels great to gear up to be ready for fitness. Sports Authority can testify to my optimism for fitness.

At the end of the day, though, the gear doesn't make you fit. You have to get out there and run, bike, swim, hike, or hit that ball or puck to stay in shape.

Information technology is similar, in that it takes more than gear and software to improve business processes. The most important ingredient is the will to change and openness to assess the way an organization works and find better processes, then automate them if necessary. Buying the latest and greatest technology does little for an organization not willing to invest the time to use the new tool.

When the will to change is absent, no amount of money, hardware or software can make up for it. The examples of failed software projects are legion, and many can be traced back to a lack of leadership or a failure to make tough decisions and tradeoffs. In other cases, the failure is in the last mile of the project: failing to train users and encourage adoption of the new system.

Over the years, we have had the good fortune to work with a large number of IT leaders who were not afraid to shake things up, take chances, and make tough decisions in order to reach their goals. We usually know at the beginning of a project whether the client has this requisite toughness, and its presence is a reliable predictor of project success.

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