A first step in understanding IT services

By Papri Sri Raman, IANS

Title: "Blind Men and the Elephant"; Authors: Was Rahman and Priya Kurien; Publisher: Sage Publications; Price: Rs.395 (Paperback)

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It would be wrong to say Was Rahman and Priya Kurien are trying to demystify Information Technology (IT) in their book "Blind Men and the Elephant". The industry is too much of a behemoth for one book to be able to do that.

The authors, who are themselves products of the industry and with two decades of experience, have called the IT services industry an "elephant" and it is what it is in the beholder's eye.

Like John Godfrey Saxe's parable, the IT services industry is slippery as the "snake", is "a tree" under which the wise man as well as the fool find shade, blows in fresh air like a "fan", ties one up in knots "like a rope" or…

To hit the stands in early August, the book wants "to make people think of the future" and "where the industry is headed" and about the pitfalls in its being and growing.

"We are trying to start a debate, what is the role of the IT services industry?" say Rahman and Kurien in their must-read.

"History repeats itself," Rahman told IANS at an interaction ahead of the release of the book in India, recalling that busts inevitably follow booms and that the IT services industry is reaching an equilibrium, which both the service sector and the customer have to come to terms with soon.

"Most people don't understand what the IT industry is all about, though in the 21st century, most people use IT in their lives in one way or the other," explained Kurien.

This rings a bell, especially when we come face to face with the jargon-filled world of COBOL (common business oriented language), ERPs (enterprise resource planning) and MRPs (material resource planning).

Each specific IT service sector is getting more specialised and more "driven by profit", but not becoming meticulous enough to cover its back, thus exposing itself to technology that can make it not only outdated but the service entirely redundant.

The book looks in some detail at some great IT service sector stories, but they all end with a cautionary note – the euphoria needs to be contained.

The industry is not about technology. Let's not forget, said the authors, "it is about the service, it is about the investment, about leadership and empowerment", and any of these missing can make the industry crash.