Deep Blue. The computer that overcame Chess Master Gary Kasparov. Photo Credit Wikimedia Commons

Deep Blue. The computer that overcame Chess Master Gary Kasparov. Photo Credit Wikimedia Commons

There are a lot of definitions of technology. One of them very commonly used is the following: “The set of knowledge and information of an activity that can be used in a systematic way for the design, development, manufacturing and commercialization of products and servicing, including the proper application of the techniques associated to global management”.

This can sound surprising for managers far from the technical field. Technology is not a physical asset. Technology is the immaterial asset composed by knowledge and information embedded into a physical asset. When we buy the last mobile phone by Apple, we are not buying technology. We are buying the license of use of some technologies. We are not acquiring the knowledge embedded into the phone unless we make reverse engineering later.

Technology is knowledge but is not any knowledge. It is systematic knowledge. What does it mean? It means that they are pieces of knowledge organized in a systemic way. The full system provides a lot of value but the pieces of knowledge alone do not. We can know that heating iron we can work on a malleable material, but we cannot make a sword if we cannot know that cooling it fast instead of slowly it makes tough.

The use of iron to make swords provided a huge advantage for the societies over the use of bronze. The advantage for the warrior is in the ownership of an iron sword, but the advantage for the community is in knowing how to own a lot of them to have a stronger army. You can do it buying them to another community (you will be dependent) or you can know how to make them (you will be independent).

Technology is not only in the knowledge to make things but in the knowledge to commercialize them. This fact can be more easily understood nowadays, looking at business models like amazon. The competitive advantage of amazon relies on the use of IT technology to commercialize its products, without the proper use of this kind of technology amazon only would be another distribution company.

But the more odd issue to be understood by some managers is considering global management a matter of technology, but this fact is not so difficult to be understood. Global management depends on the technology used too. For instance, technology makes easier to manage larger and spread organizations. Global organizations can be more effective and efficiently managed due to aerial transport and telecommunications. Videoconferencing provides a way to join efforts of people at large distances as if they had his desk next to ours.

These last examples are the use of generic technologies to support management, but management itself is a set of knowledge and information used in a systematic way to run the business. In the language of technology managers, global management is a matter of technology management too.

An important thing to be noticed is the use of the word “set” joined to “systematic” in the definition. The technology used in a business is a set of parts linked to provide a way of working. The technology used in a business is a system and it must be analyzed and managed in a systemic way. That is the reason why technology managers must be good strategist. The definition of a system is a matter of strategy because strategy is the process of planning something or putting a plan into operation in a skillful way.

Technology management is not related simply to the acquisition of physical assets that carry incorporated technologies, or related only to the development of technology running an R & D process. It is related to the building of a system of technologies own or incorporated that can fit the strategic objectives of the organization. Technology management is related to construction of the business itself.

Of course, not all the activities in a business are technology management. Most activities in a company are operational instead of strategic, and most strategic activities are running with well-established techniques of global management. Technology management is an activity required when the structure of the technological system must change. Then technology management requires the use of systemic tools to analyze the effects of the change into the system.

As technologies are more complex every day, complexity management is totally linked to technology management. It is very important to understand the dynamics of complex systems when you are changing a technological system, if you do not follow this viewpoint you can be constructing an unmanageable business instead of a manageable one.

Is the global political system a matter of technology management? Global economy could be a matter of technology management; however, politics is the opposite activity to the technological one. Politics involves high level solutions out of the system. It involves solutions that the system itself cannot provide, of course, if these solutions found by politics require a new configuration of the system to run, technology management would be applied.

This last reflection must be taken into account carefully. There are some political options that consider that current global economy could be perfectly designed to provide crises and poverty. Although this fact is possible in theory, in practice, the global economic system is excessively complex. The higher the complexity is, the lower the predictability is. Namely, it would be very difficult to assure the benefit for some evil designer because it would be impossible to predict the evolution of the economy when it enters in a crisis situation. Last crises have been complexity crises. These crises are the result of the complexity itself and the inability to manage the global economy when the system enters a turbulent scenario. It would be more a matter of incompetence due to the lack of understanding complexity than a matter of evilness. I always say that foolishness is worse than evilness, because the evil man knows his limits but the fool man does not know when he must stop.

Another thing that people began to think is that democracy can be improved through the use of new technologies, but we find the same issue again. The introduction of technology to move the decision making process from the rulers to the citizens, is possible in theory, however, there is a limit imposed by complexity. You can establish easily ways to vote about more things, however, you are increasing the uncertainty of the system, because, people have not got the same knowledge and information about most matters than rulers and their advising staff. This would imply that press would make always a perfect work (without an own political vision) and the education of all voters is enough to understand any problem. It is well known that the quality of a democracy depends on the quality of the education of the voters and the quality of the information that they can receive. That is the reason why democracy fails in many countries in the third world and they finally reach a totalitarian way of governance.

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