Here it was a Friday now nearly evening as the hands of my wrist watch pushed 4:49 pm and the prospect of an hour and a half ride in the car is stared me in the face and to make matters worse I was just sitting there at a dead stop. Unfortunately it wasn’t rush hour traffic holding me up as is so common in Detroit, as that was yet to come too however this was different. This was the McDonald’s drive through window and the LCD screen which would normally display my order was flashing in multi-colors like a bad disco light show and the disembodied voice which came over the speaker which sat atop it kept asking me to wait.
At first the voice was apologetic in that it asked me for a “moment”, then as several “moments” wound past and cars began to pile up, the apologetic nature was gone and the request turned to simply I just needed to “wait”. As I’m waiting I should confess a sin if you will as why am I here in the first place, as yes I did see Morgan Spurlock’s “Super Size Me” however this was my reward and like all creatures I have become accustom to it. As each week when returning from a trip, this “reward” is a Number 4 value meal comprised of two cheese burgers, medium order of those golden brown fries seasoned to perfection and a Diet Coke. All of this fair is had for the paltry sum of under $6 dollars too which allows my frugal side to also support this indulgence in poor nutritional dinning.
However the “voice” has now returned around 12 or so minutes later (yes I really want my number 4 value meal that bad), the cars are now lined up and my palms are getting sweaty as I’m the one at the order kiosk and the 20 or so cars behind me have no clue why I’m “just sitting there”. As this got me thinking, no not about the blowing horns behind me, however a week earlier I was out at MIT studying the importance of building a Global Operating Strategy and the words of Professor (Charlie) Fine struck me as they were a validation of what I had seen coming for a while now. In short “IT (Information Technology) was the business” as in the past it was simply a “cost center” or a corporate over head to be dealt with like all other commodity items which need to be beat down in cost.
However here I was, a buyer with cash in hand ready to exchange it for a burger today however a “computer” system stood in the way of my transaction. What makes this different or important you maybe asking, firstly all the equipment and processes to create the goods I wanted to buy to available and working. There wasn’t an issue with the grill, fryers, or staff, it was simply a computer. For those of you with a little gray hair and wrinkles around the eyes will remember the days before the computer stood between us at this venerable burger institution and they still sold us a burger, however this layer of abstraction (the computer) has changed this as they were now stopped cold in their tracks because of it.
This also makes me think back to my day job as I’ve worked in the Automotive IT space for years and the McDonald’s example is simply a microcosm of what is happening at the macro level. As when I started many moons ago, a production plant could run for a day or two without computer support. However as time went on, this shorten to only “hours” as the dependencies increased as resolution times shortened (a driver we’ve discussed in a past post).
Here today, be it a manufacturing plant or your neighborhood burger joint, the role IT plays in the business has clearly become the business and those who miss this will find themselves at the short end of a very long stick missing their burger…