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In search of IT productivity: assessment issues

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Despite the massive investments in Information Technology (IT) in the developed economies, the IT impact on productivity and business performance continues to be questioned. The paper critically reviews this 'IT productivity paradox' debate. It suggests that important elements in the uncertainty about the IT payoff relate to deficiencies in measurement at the macroeconomic level, but also to weaknesses in organisational evaluation practice. The paper reports evidence from a 1996 UK survey pointing to such weaknesses. Focusing at the more meaningful organisational level, an integrated systems lifecycle approach is put forward as a long term way of strengthening evaluation practice. This incorporates a cultural change in evaluation from 'control through numbers' to a focus on quality improvement. The approach is compared against 1995–96 research findings in a multinational insurance company, where senior managers in a newly created business division consciously sought related improvements in evaluation practice, and IT productivity.

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