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IT's worst addictions (and how to cure them)

Dan Tynan | Feb. 14, 2012
Jargon, data, power -- the first step to IT recovery is recognizing the monkey on your back

The cure: IT needs to look more selectively at the data it collects and retains, says DiNunno.

"The cure is a more rigorous analysis of the whole value chain," he says. "Privacy controls, better understanding of the user's needs, working on the value and quality of data, and respecting the use of 'IT power' so that that power doesn't corrupt us all -- these are the cures."

IT addiction no. 4: Old methodsIt's natural to fall back on the techniques you know best. But if you're still clinging to the methodologies you were using 5, 10, or 20 years ago, you have a monkey on your back -- and it has a gray muzzle.

"Olde Tyme Methodologies are serious killers of productivity, especially when they're accompanied by an addiction to Voluminous Useless Documentation," writes Steven A. Lowe, CEO of Innovator, a consulting and custom software development firm.

For example, software developers who cling to waterfall methodologies or structured design techniques can end up creating software that's obsolete before it's even implemented, or pouring valuable resources into creating documentation no one else will ever read.

"Back when computing time was expensive and programmers were cheap, these methodologies made some sense," he says. "And if you are working on a static project with a low-skill implementation team, they may still do. But for modern systems with fast time-to-market, they're a death march."

The cure: Get agile. Adopt modern methodologies like extreme programming or behavior-driven design. Develop an understanding of the underlying business processes so that you can communicate intelligently with the people who have to use what you build.

"Letting go of beloved techniques can be difficult," Lowe says. "After all, if method X has served you well since 1970, why abandon it for some newfangled acronym-soup? For the same reason people traded bicycles for motorcycles and horses for cars: to get there faster."

IT addiction no. 5: New machinesEverybody loves new toys. For most techies, strolling through a data center full of gleaming servers, humming drives, and blinking lights is like waking up on Christmas morning. But having the latest and greatest of everything is a costly fixation that can drag you and your organization down the money hole.

Take storage, for example. Most big enterprises and government agencies rip and replace their storage systems every few years to store a ton of data they will never use again, says Anthony R. Howard, a best-selling author ("The Invisible Enemy: Black Fox") and independent technology consultant for Fortune 50 companies and the U.S. military.

"The shocking fact is that most IT data isn't touched again after the first 30 days," he says. "Companies are wasting millions buying storage for the big data they need now, and then forklifting it to a new system every three to five years. Imagine a tiering system where only the data you need would go on the expensive drives, and the data you don't would automatically go on the cheap drives. Imagine if organizations only paid for the components that actually needed to be upgraded, then added them to their current infrastructure. Imagine a world where our government would never have to pay for multimillion-dollar forklift upgrades. Think about what they could do with that money."


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