BY L. GARY BOOMER
The parallels between
electricity and computing
Gary Boomer, CPA, is the president of
Boomer Consulting, in Manhattan, Kan.
What happened during the early 1900s within the power industry presents an excellent lesson for
firms today about the adoption of emerging
technologies. It also reveals how existing IT
strategies may be inefficient, expensive and
difficult to leverage into the future.
As a firm leader, you don’t have to know
how to build the watch, but you should at
least know how to tell time. Timing is critical when considering any trend or industry transformation, and each always has its
early adapters, late adapters and resisters.
The Gartner Group refers to this as the Hype
Cycle, with five distinct steps:
1. Technology trigger: A new technology
generates the interest of the press.
2. Peak of inflated expectations: The technology experiences only marginal success.
3. Trough of disillusionment: The technology fails to deliver as expected, and the
press starts to ignore it.
4. Slope of enlightenment:
Experimentation and practical applications of the technology re-ignite interest.
5. Plateau of productivity: The technology becomes stable and evolves into the next
The accounting profession has typically
operated in the later stages of this cycle, but
I strongly recommend that firms step to the
front and become industry leaders.
THE POWER INDUSTRY
In his book, The Big Switch — Rewiring the
World from Edison to Google, Nicholas Carr
offers compelling insights into the parallels
between electricity and computing.
As an inventor, Thomas Edison first imag-
ined the whole and then built the necessary
pieces. Many of you may not know that his
accountant and business manager, Samuel
Insull (who joined him in 1881), was ulti-
mately responsible for the delivery and
ubiquity of electricity. Like Edison, Insull
was a systems thinker (business, rather than
mechanical). In fact, he often referred to his
thinking as “the accountant’s way of view-
ing things” and was responsible for keeping
Edison’s cash-poor operation running.
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