back to article If only enterprise IT worked like my iPad ... or at least my car

Do you remember when computers were hard to use? Not so long ago our collective opinion was neatly summarized by the apocryphal GM press release which asserted that if they developed technology like Microsoft, we would all be driving cars that for no reason at all, would crash twice a day, shut down and refuse to restart. …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It’s extraordinary, but

    "It’s extraordinary, but with all our high tech knowledge and skills we don’t have a vocabulary to articulate the business problem in a way that allows effective communications between the participants."

    Uhhh... ITIL?

    1. ecofeco Silver badge
      IT Angle

      Re: It’s extraordinary, but

      Which has been around for... how many years now?

      No, the problem is same age-old one: recto-cranial-inversion.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    My experience is everything was always done slap dash because all that was important was that the customer got what they wanted.

    If you try to explain sensible ideas as shown in that diagram to the people "at the top" their eyes glaze over and they not and promptly forget everything you just tried to teach them.

    Then they return to responding to whichever customer screamed at them the loudest 5 minutes ago.

  3. Aristotles slow and dimwitted horse
    Thumb Down

    Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear... Part II

    "It’s extraordinary, but with all our high tech knowledge and skills we don’t have a vocabulary to articulate the business problem in a way that allows effective communications between the participants."

    Who is "we" in this case? If we are making sweeping generalisations then I would have changed the overall intent of the passage to read "we generally don’t have the time to get all of the key participants in a room to make sure everyone is on the same page".

    Also, I think that blaming the RBS fiasco on technology alone is purely shifting the blame onto platforms that would have been architected technically to have been as available as possible - my understanding is that it was HR cost-cutting and staffing issues (i.e. outsourcing to less knowledgeable resources) that caused this particular failure.

    So David, I noticed you are also at this Architecture Summit? I suggest you meet up with Gavin Payne who is also there - it seems you both need to drown your sorrows.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear... Part II

      Agree, there are some ridiculous generalizations in this article.

      "Yet last year several high profile systems failures signalled that banking systems, far from being leading edge, are in rapid decline"

      Yes, RBS had an outage because they screwed up a batch job something fierce. Now, because of one employee's screw up at one bank (user error, nothing to do with the technology architecture), all banks' IT systems, and their IT architectures in general, are in "rapid decline." Amazon, MS Azure, facebook had more outages than the banking industry last year, but they seem to be this guy's cloudy, SOA ideal whereas banking systems are just falling apart. Outside of the RBS issue, I can't think of another time a major bank's systems have gone offline for an extended period... which is pretty remarkable because everyone would definitely hear about it if they did.

      The big banks seem to have pretty agile architectures. Remember how fast they rolled out online banking with smartphone scan check deposits, interbank account to account transfers, punch out bill pay, etc. That had to be mind numbingly complex to design with all of their regulations. I can't think of a banking service I would want access to that isn't available on my phone. Where are banks lagging any other industry in new services?

    2. Roland6 Silver badge

      Re: Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear... Part II

      >So David, I noticed you are also at this Architecture Summit? I suggest you meet up with Gavin Payne who is also there - it seems you both need to drown your sorrows.

      That's two sessions now crossed off.

  4. Tom 35

    Once upon a time banks in general were regarded as leaders in the use of information technology.

    Banks tended to be conservative, it was not long ago that ATMs were still running OS/2. But of late they are cutting corners at the same time they want to add new services. Integrating new systems with the old while outsourcing stuff to India at the same time. The result is lots of string and sticky tape patching stuff together.

    1. jake Silver badge

      Re: Once upon a time banks in general were regarded as leaders in the use of information technology.

      Not OS/2 ... eComStation. I still use it, in some places.

  5. RonWheeler


    Usually it ends up being a dogfight with s/he who shouts loudest and has the biggest stick gets what they want, even if it is the wrong thing. And everyone else takes the blame for the shortcomings. Talk all you like about good working practices, the people who get what they want are those who don't follow them.

  6. IT Hack


    What's the current buzzowrd? Oh yes. Unified Management.

    All that aside though there is a big problem aligning IT services with the business or vice versa....

    One thing I do see is that there are very few people who are able to bridge the gap between the techies and the business. When I mention that to people who should know better their eyes generally tend to glaze over. On both sides.

    Its not fucking rocket science.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Re: ITIL/CoBIT/Blah

      It's actually worse than rocket science because you can only kill a limited number of people with a rocket.

    2. bep

      Re: ITIL/CoBIT/Blah

      I dunno, anything that's very, very hard resembles rocket science. What you are describing is actually very hard to achieve. The problem is people think it should be easy for some reason, despite experience that shows them time and again that this is where the project craps itself.

      1. IT Hack

        Re: ITIL/CoBIT/Blah

        @ bep

        That's the thing...its not really all that difficult as a piece of common sense/knowledge/what have you.

        It gets complicated when people get involved who think they are experts but are actually totally removed from reality.

        Much like the Sales EVP demanding that £80k worth of work is done for a newly acquired account that wanted DR. The total value of the deal was less than 10k per annum. Why? Because they had already signed off on the deal. I shit you not.

  7. Brian de Ford

    Wow! That was like being in a really extended Dilbert strip.

  8. Byz

    The rot start started when...

    Up till the mid 1990's you would find the top boss in IT was someone who had worked their way up to the top of the pile and had some reasonable IT knowledge (they'd done their time).

    Then in the late 1990's you'd find that the top person was some weasel, who'd been crap at IT but worked in the IT department and had been good at sticking their proboscis in unpleasant places. About the same time project managers started appearing in IT, again they were not good at IT but they acted to keep an eye on admin but weren't in charge.

    Then after 2000 I noticed that there was an influx into Project Management of people who'd been on a one week Prince course and used to sell snake oil in the dot com boom.

    Next came the System Architects who had been again had very little IT experience (if you asked them questions you found this out) but had some sort of Microsoft authorisation, their golden rule was if it is not a able to run on Microsoft platforms or is written in house then kill the project - I worked on many projects that there was no software available to run on Microsoft so they all died in the end.

    The final nail in the coffin was offshoring where any requirements were coded regardless of whether they were self contradictory and none of our bosses knew how to turn on a PC, yet made strategic decisions like "We haven't got time to test it just read the code, see if there are bugs and put it live tonight" (they'd never heard of the halting problem).

    Then all of us who knew anything were surplus to requirement :o

    1. IT Hack

      Re: The rot start started when...

      You forgot the pfy MBA's.

      Had one tell me in 2000 that broadband was the new up and coming technology. And that I should look at replacing our ethernet LAN with it.

      That was when I took up nerf and started shooting MBA's and "project manager" in meetings when they opened their gobs. Also in hallways.

  9. Doug D
    Thumb Down

    Save us Apple

    Granted I haven't followed the RBS fiasco, but the difference between your iPad, your car, and general IT service is that you paid an exorbitant markup on your iPad and car... You get what you pay for and no one wants to pay for good IT service. Many don't even really know what level of service they're really getting. They just want someone like Apple to make all their decisions for them so they don't have to think. Yeesh, when you drink the kool aid you really fall in love with it don't you.... Your iPad isn't nearly as special as you think it is; it does the 10 things Apple lets you do with it and that's it. Enterprise IT isn't allowed to say no. Ever.

    Beyond that the idea that technical types in IT suck at business and business types suck at IT isn't new... Both sides need to put in more work to reach the other.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Management bleating...and the consultants who feed them

    The "line of business" get precisely what they ask for, then complain because it is no good.

    SOA is patchwork architecture by any other name (EAI anyone?) which solves nothing, and "business services" is meaningless gobbledygook peddled to the foolish so they can feel warm about their state of denial while continuing to guarantee failure by saying "buy over build", "IT is not our business" and "best of breed", yet spend more integrating than it would cost to build, having no business at all were it not for IT, and relying on vendors who would be fools in the market if they actually were open and componentised.

    These people are dinosaurs, but unfortunately they occupy the high table and it will probably require a meteorite or two before they go away.

  11. jake Silver badge

    Two thingies ...

    Firstly, most end users aren't actually "computer users". Rather, they are "application users"; the vast majority of them have no fucking clue as to how to actually use the computer. A simile would be the difference between operating the web press to print the NYT and reading the copy bought at a news stand. Minor point? Perhaps. But it's worth remembering when designing/upgrading a system.

    Secondly, as a guy who various people have been trying[1] to hang the "Architect" label on for a very long time now, the best decision I ever made[2] was to add an MBA to my engineering degrees. Allows me to speak to the bean counters in their own language, and translate between money-bags & techies. Only took about 18 months of night school, easiest course I ever snoozed through.

    (Management? Out of the loop, in my eyes. They are given the end product, and trained how to use it. Eight or ten times I've had a "CIO" bluster & protest at various decisions I made. I look 'em right in the eye & tell 'em "If you know how to do the job, why did you hire me?" All but three times they got embarrassed, sat down, and shut up. The other three took over the job. Two of the companies went under, the third brought me back in to fix the system a couple months later, after firing the "CIO".)

    [1] I resist it. I much prefer "Chief Cook & Bottle Washer".

    [2] Maybe the second best was to become licensed by the CSLB, thus allowing me to pocket the loot that I used to pay the contractor when (re)building data centers ;-)

  12. SirDigalot

    Comparisons are not always fair

    Amazon is a service provider that does not have to deal with endless red tape and regulation like a bank does, amazon does not need to interface with other banks and systems ( they have an intermediate system in place for that to do all the conversion between digital dollars and real money/goods, amazon did not have to build the backbone they rely on to work, other than procuring the datacenters and staff to ensure that the cloud still floats.

    and sometimes it does not as we know when the amazon cloud rained on a lot of peoples parades.

    Enterprise IT is like a swan... you hope to purvey on the surface a graceful and Nobel creature, yet underwater you are paddling like hell to get anywhere.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    hai, I sho u arkitectur now .. k ?

    "The IT Architect views the enterprise systems as a set of capabilities that must be progressively modernized to support business innovation."

    If this is truly what the IT architect believes then the IT architect is an idiot and should be fired because the IT architect will be perpetually wasting money chasing vendor rainbows while delivering little, if any, real value.

    The IT architect _should_ view the enterprise systems, dispassionately, as a set of capabilities that support business needs in a cost effective and sustainable manner. The IT architect _should_ continually review the corporate strategy to ensure that the enterprise systems are aligned. The IT architect _should_ only recommend capital investment in new systems when the new system will deliver clearly defined benefits that can be measured and that preferably outweigh the costs.

    IF the IT architect does these things, then the IT architect will become the friend of both front line business units & corporate finance and will, along the way, justify his or her existence.

  14. Rumplestiltskin

    Yes, but......

    The three way analysis above assumes that each party is competently and ethically doing their job for the organisation as viewed from their perspective. The problem is compounded by IT architects who once had to "do stuff" but have found an easy life for a number of years by blocking innovation by calling everything a "security risk". This is usually mystified to a degree which frightens off, or trumps, the business line manager and scares the financial executives. The consumer explosion of iPhone-like devices has spoilt the game. They can no longer stop the demand for change, but many no longer know how the architecture of their own systems really fits together. Thus the spectacular crashes.

  15. Chris Hann

    You really don't want IT that works like some cars

    You obviously don't own a Ford car with My Ford Touch, that works like Windows 95.

  16. J.G.Harston Silver badge Inc.

    Is Amazon /really/ incorporated as it's /internet/ /address/???

  17. Etherealmind

    A business executive spends more on a single fancy lunch/dinner than he does on his laptop.

    Tells me a lot about focus.

  18. karlh

    iPad 1 - resilient

    "Apple has showed Microsoft the way, ... tablets that are ... remarkably resilient."

    Ha ha, that's a good one. Apps on my iPad 1 crash all the time (even, in fact especially, the ones by Apple).

    It's a mystery to me that Microsoft were pilloried for so long over GPFs, and yet no-one seems to mind app crashes straight back to the home screen on the iPad 1.

    1. Mark .

      Re: iPad 1 - resilient

      I agree - is Apple paying for this advertising?

      No one cares about the author's ipad - like most of the Apple users, he can't wait to tell us about "my ipad" at every opportunity.

      The history revisionism and ignorance in this article is appalling. Yes, in the 90s computers crashed twice a day - but so did Apple's. The problem was much down to things like memory protection, which classic MacOS lacked too. And MS had an OS with memory protection far earlier than Apple, who flailed about for years trying to find a solution, before they then gave up and bought one from Next. Windows since 2000 has been way more stable - yes, maybe it's a bit more or a bit less stable than other OSs, but haters still judge it on the behaviour of Windows 9x. Improvements are down to MS, not magical-Apple. Windows 7 can survive even GPU crashes, which I've seen will still happily crash an Apple PC.

      As for smartphones and tablets, we were using them long before Apple entered the market late - it was Symbian and now Android that dominated. And I agree with you - the idea that these are a better form of computing doesn't really hold up. Rather, they've acquired all of the negative aspects that PCs once had, even though PCs are now better.

      I've seen Android phones crash, and Apple aren't immune to that either (if anything, Symbian was most stable in my experience) - perhaps less so than a 90s PC, but still more so than a modern day PC. Same for the other common criticisms: my Galaxy Nexus phone takes 3 times longer than my Windows 8 PC to boot (and iphones take ages too, from what I've seen). Phones and even my TV now pesters me for updates, whilst my Windows 8 PC no longer nags me to do so. Oddly Apple users spin this as a benefit ("you haven't got your update yet on your Android phone!" - once again, it's a benefit if it's Apple, a criticism if it's Android, Windows or anyone else).

      Yes, 15 years ago we might have wished PCs were like phones/TVs, because PCs were terrible (including Apple's) and phones/TVs were simple. But it was only because they were limited. Now, I find myself wishing that phones and TVs were more like PCs...

      (As for enterprise, try doing anything useful with an ipad. MS have all sorts of simple/consumer oriented things for networking and so on anyway. The reason these aren't used are they're not as powerful or flexible, which is even more true of David Sprott's fisherprice pad. But Apple are infuriating even in a consumer context - e.g., with everyone else, I can share media either by USB or streaming with any make of device or OS, effortlessly - it just works, out of the box. Good luck doing that with Apple - I can't play music or videos from someone else's ipod player, even if I installed itunes, it's unclear whether it would "sync" with my stuff or not; and streaming requires you to buy a special Apple box just to get it to work.)

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