By Peter Branton
Blaming business problems on information technology seem to have started pretty much alongside the widespread adoption of computing at work in the first place. Banks may boast that their servers offer five nines availability, but who hasn’t tried to get cash out in the middle of the day, only to be told “Oh, sorry, the computer’s down again”?
|~|commen40tbody.jpg|~|IT managers get the blame for a lot of problems implementing products that needed to be better quality in the first place.|~|Blaming business problems on information technology seem to have started pretty much alongside the widespread adoption of computing at work in the first place.
Banks may boast that their servers offer five nines availability, but who hasn’t tried to get cash out in the middle of the day, only to be told “Oh, sorry, the computer’s down again”?
While the classic “server error” has been used as an excuse for all too many non-IT related shortcomings for years and years, computer problems have really taken off as a major contributor to business failings in the past ten to 15 years or so.
The 1990s saw big software projects, such as enterprise resource planning (ERP) applications, which promised – almost literally – to rewrite how businesses worked, and how they were organised.
It was hardly a surprise when such high-flying schemes came down to earth; the fall being that much more painful.
There were a number of high-profile disasters in the late 1990s and the early 2000s, although there have been fewer such in the past couple of years.
While partly, this is because more companies have embraced better project management disciplines it has to be said that some of that is also down to better code writing from some of the major software vendors.
Yes, we know we started out saying that IT gets the blame for a lot of business failings, but it is also true that IT managers get blamed for a lot of problems implementing products that needed to be better quality in the first place.
The classic example would be Microsoft and security: even Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer will now admit that the firm didn’t pay enough attention to security issues for far too long.
The result is that as the bulk of the world has standarised around using Microsoft software at least somewhere within their organisation, most of the world’s businesses have proved vulnerable to a host of security threats.
The reasons for Microsoft changing its thinking on security issues are many – but we would argue that the fear of losing customers to platforms that were perceived as more secure, such as Linux, wouldn’t be low down on the list.
Other vendors have faced similar issues. Oracle, for instance, found that earlier versions of its business applications solution, E-Business Suite, were poorly received in the industry because of numerous software glitches.
To increase its market share it has had to improve its product.
Pushing for better quality products from vendors won’t stop implementation issues altogether — this is still complex stuff — but it may just stop the IT department getting all the blame for somebody else’s mistake.