The IT Urban Myths

Infoworld in its August 16th issue examines 6 major IT Urban Myths. These are beliefs widely held to be true but which Infoworlds writers and editors take isssue with. Here are the 6 IT myths:
1 – Server upgrades matter
2 – 80% of corporate data resides on mainframes
3 – All IT shops run multiple platforms
4 – CIOs and CTOs have a greater need for Business Savvy than Tech Exrpertise
5 – Most IT Projects Fail
6 – IT Doesnt Scale
And Infoworld tries to debunk the IT myths with their own selected facts and point of view.

First, we commend Infoworld for coming up with these IT myths but would love to have seen a seventh one. 20 years ago it would have been “you cant get fired by picking IBM” and it currently is “you cant get fired by picking Microsoft”. It would be fascinating to see this “myth” examined given Microsofts inexorable move into the former IBM position of premium cost supplier while still failing to deliver on enterprise caliber security, reliability, availability and interoperability. Microsoft has attained the exalted position especially with Windows desktop, Office, and IE (IE has no cost to use but a hell of an admin price to pay) and other monopoly share products.

However, that “IT myth” spared examination, we still would beg to differ with the Infoworld staff on two of the myths. Take Myth 1: Server upgrades matter. If we state this in the opposite way, “Server upgrades dont matter” one can hear right away the fallacy of the Infoworld argument. Infoworld is stating the Microsoft “rip and replace” case. Microsofts CSA Bill Gates has been lately arguing that hardware costs are asymptotically approaching zero which is the crux of the Infoworld argument. But of late Microsoft has launched a PR blitz arguing that Windows Servers are a better bargain than Linux because they offer a lower TCO-Total Cost of Ownership. In effect, MS and Infoworld want the initial cost and not the TCO to apply when convenient.

But then MS turns around and uses Total System Cost measures(and some mighty outdated ones) to defend its high TCO Windows servers. We think TSC-Total System Cost should be the measure. So on that basis Server upgrades (either hardware or software or both) do indeed matter. Because these days Microsoft (and perhaps Cisco in the network OS world) is able to establish the rules of data and program interoperability for its desktop and server OSes – and those rules of interoperability are becoming ever more restrictive.

Yes, Infoworld is right — the hardware costs of server upgrades are a small % of TSC/TCO and will continue to decline in the future. But the total system cost – and particularly the danger of getting stuck onto an increasingly proprietary, closed and more expensive Windows platform is high. Other vendors such as IBM, Novell, HP have mitigated the risk by making Java, XML, CORBA, W3C and other cross platform standards much more welcome.

The second IT myth we differ with is “Myth 5:Most IT Projects Fail”. If Infoworlds staff had stated the case as “Too few IT Projects Succeed”, then the Standish Group data cited (plus other data available from Capers Jones or Professor Howard Rubin) clearly supports the second proposition. Specifically, a CEO contemplating a major IT project of $10M or greater has only one chance in fifty of succeeding. 2% chance of success and 98% chance of not succeeding. For projects of $750,00 or less the CEO has less than a fifty-fifty chance of succeeding.

Now what Infoworld argues over is how bad the various shades of not succeeding are. This myth really needed much more careful examination on that issue. But what stands out above all else is the fact that 50 years++ into computing and software development and an IT project is still not quite a fifty-fifty proposition for success. This is not an enviable record. In our home sites Philosophy Statement (front page at the bottom) we present 4 key arguments for this abyssmal success record in IT. We think Management of Change is the critical issue that simply is being avoided by too many parties involved in IT development and operations. Yes, as we note in our philosophy statement there are other key risk factors — but managing those risks and managing the change and what it means to all stakeholders – that is the critical IT Myth (that we, as ITers, are adequately doing so) that needs to be rectified.

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