Thursday, October 11, 2007

Will the technical debt consume us?

Pete Lacey quotes Anne Thomas Manes:

The problem is caused by the root culture of IT — project-driven funding models, a cobbler’s kids perspective on investing in infrastructure that helps IT (rather than a particular project), and a propensity to never decommission applications. IT systems have grown organically for the last 40 years. They’re a mess. It requires a fundamental change in the way IT operates as a service provider within the organization.

Here is the post on the Yahoo service-oriented-architecture list.

She is of course correct.

And all the while the technical debt is piling up. Maintenance is accounting for more and more of the IT budget. Soon there will be nothing left for new development.

There are of course solutions to this problem, but they require a lot of discipline and vision.

I think the discipline and vision are much less costly & more effective than the annual madness of budgeting in your typical large company.

Update 12-OCT-2007

I don't know why I didn't think of this last night, but Patrick quoted 12 Questions with Mary Poppendieck just yesterday in our internal wiki:

The first step in moving from forecast-driven projects to feedback-driven... is to change the measurements. The book "Rebirth of American Industry" by William Waddell and Norman Bodek makes a good case that the measurements imposed by traditional cost-accounting methods are the biggest impediment to the successful implementation of lean manufacturing. Similarly, I believe that the measurements imposed by traditional project management methods are the biggest impediment to the successful implementation of lean development. In particular, instead of measuring variation from plan, we need to start measuring the delivery of realized business value.

2 comments:

Sarge said...

Alas, I am more cynical. I believe the situation will continue to get worse until it asymptotically reaches the point where only the barest minimum of non-maintenance work gets funded. Over time I expect the departure from IT of the best and brightest to continue, if not accelerate, until there is no longer anyone on staff to do anything but maintenance.

Maybe I'm just too exhausted to see otherwise, but I can't see there being a clue-by-four big enough to change the priorities for the enclosing organizations. My experience with corporate IT is too similar to my experience with government work to expect anything but a festering morass of bureaucratic sloth from either of them. It has nothing to do with the individuals involved; it's the payoffs for the organization. Just like no one ever lost their job for buying IBM, I haven't heard of anyone losing their job for not spending on infrastructure.

I hope I'm wrong.

Patrick Logan said...

Sarge -- as that happens, presumably new businesses would startup that develop better IT. The older ones that cannot adapt will be plowed under. That's the way it's been with business generally, and IT now contributes to that evolution.

-Patrick