Disintermediation

There are two main themes underlying the information revolution. The first is a continuation of the industrial revolution, most things got better/faster/cheaper/smaller unless they required skilled manual effort. And the class of things that require skilled manual effort is shrank.

The second main theme is “disintermediation” which is fancy term for cutting out the middle man. Increasingly information flows from source to sink electronically without the need for someone’s specialist knowledge to interpret or summarise it. People who need to make decisions get the information they need directly from its producers.

The next stage of disintermediation started about 40 years ago when new notation systems were created to describe the process of managing and using information. Waterfall methodologies like SSADM enabled system users and system designers to share a common language, sort of. Although it took special skills to develop diagrams like DFD (Data Flow Diagram) and ERD (Entity-Relationship Diagram) it took only a little training to understand what they showed.

The latest victims of disintermediation are the systems analysts and project managers who managed communications between coders who wrote software and the business users who specified what software needed to do. The gap between the two groups is gradually narrowing. Business users have PCs at home and are used to how software works and are getting better at describing how it should work. Programmers no longer wear white coats and live in air-conditioned basement computer-rooms. They talk to business users every day and often have a better idea of how the business really works than those who think they are running it. This new way of designing and building software has a name “agile methods” which is a clue to what they are intended to achieve. But that’s a story for another day.

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