Real Time Information – The Lost Decades

In their wonderful new book The Second Machine Age Erik Brynjolfsson – a Professor of Management at the MIT Sloan School of Management and Andrew McAffee – the director of the MIT Center for Digital Business – make a fascinating observation:

A kid today with a smartphone has more access to real time information than the President of the United States did 20 years ago.

Just stop for one moment and consider what is being said here.

That in 1994, the most powerful office in the world had less access to real time information than what an affluent teenager has today.

The debate storm around the Edward Snowden leaks of 2013 would suggest that we as a society, whether for good or not, have come a considerable way in terms of providing real time access to information for those that desire it, need it or (for balance purposes) may seek to abuse it.

Reading the Second Machine Age observation made us stop and think as to whether the professions that we hold dear – audit, risk and governance – have equally developed their real time information access capabilities.

And it is hard not to suggest that we have wasted twenty years.

Loyal readers will remember that this is a topic that we discussed a year ago – so we return to it today not so much in the sense of what could be done to improve the situation but more so to examine what is it in our professional DNA that led us to miss the opportunities of the last two decades.

We have three explanations.

Firstly it is a question of demand.

By this we mean not the demand of the risk, audit and governance advisors but the demand of our clients / customers.

We have failed to properly position ourselves in the corporate information lifecycle as having an output where the real time currency of our product is important.

The second is a question of technology.

Whilst we are competent in commenting upon on the controls or risks relating to new or revised technology it strikes McLeod Governance that we are comfortably numb in terms of technology adaption.  Case in point here would be to examine how much evolution has taken place in electronic work papers over the last twenty years.

Could it be that we are secretly scared (or worse still, envious) of the technology that we are being asked to assess?

The third is a question of leadership.

What was it that you did over that period?

Who were our leaders?

If you didnt drive the change within your organisations who exactly did you expect would be the person to initiate the change?

And what was it that our professional bodies – those that self declare that they are there to serve us and lead us – doing during this period?

Perhaps the greatest failing here was that we looked to those leaders for inspiration and – in the words of Henry Ford – we were given a faster horse when what it was that we wanted was a different type of vehicle.

Let’s not waste the next twenty years.

 

 

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