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10 old-school IT principles that still rule

Bob Lewis | July 26, 2017
Technology changes rapidly, but beneath the buzzwords, the fundamentals of sound IT strategy remain. Here are 10 graybeard IT tenets that still reign — when applied in their modernised guise.

Long before formal development methodologies drained the fun out of IT, business managers used to wander over and ask, “Can you get the computer to do this?” The programmer would try something, show it to the business user, and they’d iterate until it was right.

They didn’t call it agile. They called it “having a conversation about what the computer should do,” but it was agile, nonetheless.

Then waterfall methodologies came along. They’d work, too ... if business managers could perfectly envision a complete working system and describe it precisely. But they can’t, so we lost 30 years of productivity.

Enter Scrum, which takes iteration and interaction, and adds enough methodology to drain most of the fun from IT that other versions of agile had put back in.


Relationships precede process, and relationships outlive transactions

Old version: Managing relationships with other top execs is a key part of the CIO’s job

New version: Managing relationships with the rest of the business is a key part of everyone’s job

Before businesses are anything else, they’re collections of relationships. With good relationships, everything can work. Without them, nothing can.

Back when businesses were strict hierarchies, the CIO managed relationships with the other top execs, and that was enough. If the other top execs didn’t trust the CIO, IT couldn’t succeed. It was as simple as that.

But every time any member of the IT department interacts with anyone else in the business, it affects the business/IT relationship. It isn’t just about the CIO and other execs. If the rest of the business doesn’t trust IT, IT can’t succeed. If it does, everything about IT is easier.

Not easy, but easier.


Integrate, because interconnecting 'islands of automation' takes a lot of stupid out of business processes

Old version: Gradual accumulation of custom-programmed batch interfaces

New version: Service bus or equivalent with engineered real-time interfaces

Even newer version: Integrating with non-IT-driven SaaS solutions, too

When humans rekeyed information from computer-generated reports into data-entry screens, IT realized one of its most important responsibilities was integrating disparate systems to keep data synchronized.

So it built interfaces. Lots of them. All custom-batch ETL.

Now there are so many it’s a hard-to-maintain mess. So smart IT invests in a service bus, or something similar, and engineers its interfaces too, because just piling one on top of the other means the shiny new tech re-creates the same old tangle.

Today, lots of IT is happening outside the IT department, mostly in the form of SaaS brought in by business managers as islands of automation. Eventually they’ll get tired of having their staff rekey data into it. Be ready for them.


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