Monday, May 26, 2008

Regarding IT As A Profession

A pair of terrific columns by Cringely. He hits the high points in some inter-related themes that I have been thinking about:

1. IT as a profession isn't all that fun any more.
2. IT if factionalized and balkanized.
3. Outsourcing and off-shoring have lots of problems, including quite possibly not saving money, just buying a much higher volume of labor at lower prices.

Choice quotes for each:

One of the real miracles of the PC revolution was that it often was led by super-users -- enthusiasts who had a PC at home before they had one at work and who led their co-workers as much through example as skill. Well those days of the 1970s and '80s are long gone and IT is today as entrenched and isolated as it was during the mainframe era of the 1960s.

in most organizations power ultimately manifests itself in head count, so IT organizations grow like crazy, becoming ever less efficient in the process. The typical power structure of corporate (which includes government) IT tends to discourage efficiency while encouraging factionalization. Except in the rare instance where the IT director rises from the ranks of super-users, there is a prideful disconnect between the IT culture and the user culture.

Outsourcing, while a very popular recommendation to improve IT, is treating the symptom and not the problem. The problem is IT applications require lots of ongoing maintenance and that costs labor, meaning REAL MONEY. Rather than make applications more reliable and reduce problems, IT managers seem to prefer shopping for cheaper labor. The problems are still there. It is cheaper to fix them with offshoring and outsourcing, true, but it often takes longer. If the end users -- the people who actually make MONEY for the company (IT doesn't, Lord knows) -- are unable to work from time to time, this is okay because IT is spending less money.

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