I got to thinking about how most organizations implement information technology, and to comparing it with the way they implement other technology, such as plumbing.I got to thinking about how most organizations implement information technology, and to comparing it with the way they implement other technology, such as plumbing.
Normally, when you need plumbing done, you hire a plumber and let him do his job. At the end, you have piping and other bits installed appropriately to perform the desired function. This is a stark contrast to the way IT is done, at least in most of the Western world. Here is how plumbing would work if it we did it like IT:
Company X decides it needs plumbing. X has been growing for some time, and the styrofoam waste troughs and bamboo aqueduct system delivering water from the roof drainage system (designed and implemented by the owner's nephew 2 years ago) don't seem to be working like they used to. There have been several catastrophic containment failures, spewing human waste into the hallways, and several customer complaints have resulted.
In order to tackle this problem, X does what any American company does when action is called for - they call a manager's meeting. The meeting is 6 hours long. The group universally fails to understand the depth of the problem and each member believes he has an unquestionable grasp of the problem and is uniquely qualified to provide a solution. The comptroller argues that the existing system has worked fine for 2 years and that there is no need for change just because of a few minor bugs, even if the bugs are literal.
The directory of marketing points out that 90 percent of other companies are using a technology from a company called PlumbSoft. PlumbSoft manufactures a piping and waste delivery system that includes several interesting features. All the pipes consist of loose bundles of poorly bent copper pipe with holes drilled in random locations. None of the joints ever fit together quite right, but this is touted as a feature by PlumbSoft because it allows for greater modularity and scalability. The end result is that the pipes must be disconnected and refitted regularly, sometimes several times a day to ensure stable operation.
Stable operation is itself open to some interpretation. Because of the inherent instability of the system, and because it does not securely convey the waste, there have been numerous disastrous pandemics of cholera and other diseases that came about as a direct result of using PlumbSoft products. Rather than impacting upon PlumbSoft's acceptance, this has created a thriving industry of emergency waste cleanup and dead body removal, collectively known of as the "antivirus industry". Contracting yearly subscriptions with such services is accepted as a normal part of daily life and business.
Just as the group begins to agree to go with PlumbSoft, a new operations intern mentions something about this plumbing technology which seems to be popular among professional plumbers. These professionals are collectively known of as geeks and while useful in a disaster, their opinions as to design are rarely considered useful. The technology involves 1/4 inch thick pipe made from something called "PVC" and water lines held together by actually using metals to literally weld the pipe together with lead and other soft metals.
This suggestion derives a condescending chuckle from the rest of the group. The PlumbSoft marketing fan holds up his styrofoam cup and points out: "I can fill this cup up 1000 times and it will never leak. It is ridiculous to suggest we need something as elaborate as PVC for our plumbing needs. And soldered connections? We can't use technology that requires such specialized skill as that. PlumbSoft's fittings are good enough for everyone else. They are good enough for us, too."
The end result is that by the time a plumber is called in to do the job, X has already decided to use PlumbSoft and have established a $100 budget for the job. X's stock later goes down by 3 points after clients are killed by exploding sewage. Their operations are outsourced to India. Customers flee the company in droves and it lives on only as a corporate parasite making its living off IP litigation.