back to article Junk your IT. Now. Before it drags you under

So why haven't the capabilities for each successive generation of devices increased exponentially? In practice, the growing sophistication of software has meant that while computers certainly feel faster than they did thirty or forty years ago, the difference - as far as our perceptions are concerned - isn’t nearly as great. …

  1. [a-z][A-Z]*

    True, we used to just read stuff, then new features like leave a comment appeared and... Oh

  2. Chairo

    Productivity demands that we junk everything comfortable, everything safe, everything stable, set our faces to the wind, and explore the unknown.

    OK, you boldly go where no-one else went before. Good luck and good riddance.

    I prefer to do the job with well established, boring tools that work and that I know will not cause any disaster. If someone invents a new tool or process that does the job better I evaluate it, and if I am satisfied I will use it. Otherwise he can put it where the sun doesn't shine.

    Please disrupt someone else's work and put someone else's customers in jeopardy. OK?

    1. Daggerchild Silver badge

      Cloud V2, now with 50% more Unicorns!

      May I proffer you a pint in permanent agreement, seeing as here I am right now putting out yet another fire from our attempt to leave behind our 'old legacy systems' and move to the 'exciting new featureful Cloud' stuff.

      No, we didn't ask. No, we didn't choose it. No, it isn't going well.

      1. Tony S

        Re: Cloud V2, now with 50% more Unicorns!

        "No, we didn't ask. No, we didn't choose it. No, it isn't going well."

        I feel your pain.

        I had to work in a situation where they had outsourced some key systems; it failed on almost all of the main selling points. It cost more than hosting internally would have (even allowing for buying all new replacement hardware), the service level was way down, response times seemed inordinately long due to bureaucratic processes, uptime was definitely worse, ability to react to changes seemed non-existent.

        3 years later, nothing has improved.

    2. VinceH

      "I prefer to do the job with well established, boring tools that work and that I know will not cause any disaster. If someone invents a new tool or process that does the job better I evaluate it, and if I am satisfied I will use it. Otherwise he can put it where the sun doesn't shine."

      Yes, the magic phrase that the author of this article seems to have forgotten is "If it ain't broke, don't fix it."

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Yes, the magic phrase that the author of this article seems to have forgotten is "If it ain't broke, don't fix it."

        But that can be countered with, "It will break eventually. You won't know when, you won't know how, and odds are you won't know it actually happened until it's too late. Like a car rolling down a hill as it runs out of fuel: you don't know you're stuck until you hit bottom, by which time you passed the last fuel station for miles."

    3. Pascal Monett Silver badge

      Productivity demands that we junk everything comfortable, everything safe, everything stable, set our faces to the wind, and explore the unknown.

      And while you're off exploring, how do you manage revenue ? You know, that thing that pays you at the end of the month ? Or do you think that your salary just magically appears and nobody has to process anything about it ?

      No ? You're aware that a back office is managing things so you can get a paycheck every now and then ? Good. So how long are you going to agree to go without pay in order to "explore the unknown" ?

      What a load of bull.

      1. Tom 13

        @Pascal Monett

        You know, that thing that pays you at the end of the month ?

        I think I found your problem. Looks to me like the author is one of those Gartner types. You know, makes his money from getting people to chase "Ooh! Shiny" instead of actually supporting productive business. So what he's advocating DOES fund his paycheck, just nor yours or mine.

    4. GX5000

      Madness indeed

      Not to mention the prohibitive cost and incredible waste this article suggests making in the run to be on the bleeding edge. Anyone that has been in the IM/IT World for at least ten years has seen the train wrecks, cost overruns and outright failures this thinking causes.


    5. Terry 6 Silver badge


      I agree. but further, there's an inconsistency in the argument. It isn't the legacy 'ware that is slowing us down. But, as the article itself says, the new bloat and meaningless changes.

      My Dell's keyboard, for example, is not the same as the older ones I'm used to, in that the numeric pad has no arrows and is only a number pad with no number lock on/off. In effect the number lock is on like it or not

      I always used those arrow keys, but now whenever I move my hand to the arrow keys a number comes up.

      You can argue, correctly, that those arrow keys on the number pad are obsolete. But they didn't do any harm It's not the legacy kit that slows me down. It's the new change.

      In the same way. I used to be able to mop up the never-to-be-used commands in Office menus and have a clean set of menus that would only show me the bits I might need, often grouped according to where I would best want to find them. The along came the "ribbon" which has removed that simplicity and slowed me down.

      And now it's the new Start menu. I used to be able to group the programmes I needed in folders according to function, as I defined function. So I could easily find a utility in my utility folder. A graphics programme in a graphics folder, and so on. And I could get rid of other clutter that hid what I wanted; like the links I didn't need to have. Things that are launched by a file, such as a PDF, don't need a link to the PDF reader in the start menu for example. Searching in All Apps now takes so much longer. And it's those things that make a difference to my productivity, not a half a second extra boot or start time.

    6. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      +1 pint / libation of choice.

      I have to say that I suffered huge amounts of stress from this kind of 'embracing the new' nonsense over the last 5 years.

      NOT from the IT organisation (which was / is full of very agile thinkers) but from brainwashed sales and marketing organisations determined that they are now IT because they have managed to purchase and turn on an iPad.

      Funny how they need our help until (another) salesperson eats their own and sells them some shadow IT piffle that does something there's already the capacity to do - only now they're out of compliance and spaffing data everywhere.

      But still - 'don't be a negative person' <---actually said to me before

      1. chrismeggs

        Another symptom of the IT-embracing "user" is that their requirements are versed in as much of a system specification as a requirement. Compounded by the tendency of lazy requirements analysts and solution architects to readily grab work done for them. Example conversation would go like this:

        User - a need a report.

        Analyst - showing what?

        User - sales by region by week.

        And so it is born. The User consumes the report, scans it to find the average sales and those entries showing sales by region that are more than two standard deviations away from the average. It then lies on the floor to prop open the door. What went wrong here? You will all have your pet theories. Here's mine: the User wanted to appear IT-savvy; the analyst recognised the language and copied the "requirement" down verbatim. What should have happened? Well, maybe the Analyst should have asked WHY the User needed the report. The Solution Analyst should have posited that an exception report may be more consumer-friendly, that it may be useful for salesmen to be able to interrogate their performance DURING an accounting...... Etc etc ad nauseum.

  3. Tannin

    You've got it backwards

    Computers aren't any faster because we are afraid to throw away working systems? Rubbish!

    Computers aren't much faster than they were in 1995 because we keep replacing working systems! (By "we" I mean us software guys and users and admins as opposed to the hardware people.) Because we keep throwing away perfectly usable systems in order to replace them with new, supposedly improved, systems, nothing ever gets finished; nothing ever gets fine-tuned; nothing ever gets the bugs worked out before it is replaced by something bigger and "better". By "better" we mean that it may or may not bring functional improvements and useful new features, but these almost always come at a horrendous cost in code bloat, responsiveness, and system overhead. Oh, and a whole new set of bugs and expensive UI changes that cost way more in lost time and training than they ever save in productivity. By the time two-thirds of the bugs are sorted, of course, we throw the whole expensive and now fairly workable system away and start again.

    Because software people have become so obsessed with replacement rather than improvement, we now see huge, very complicated support code libraries devoted purely to the task of making this replacement faster and easier. The result, all too often, is sluggish, buggy, insecure bloat. Look, for example, at something as simple as an ordinary web page: in nearly every case, this simple task is achieved at the cost of thousands of lines of load-on-demand scripting library and code framework bloat. No wonder it's slow and buggy and insecure! No wonder we feel the need to replace the damn thing so rapidly!

    The only, repeat only reason we have been able to get away with this gross strategic incompetence is that the hardware wizards keep on delivering massive raw power boosts which serve as enomous subsidies to the dysfunctional and uneconomic software industry.

    Well, OK, I'm exaggerating a bit. But only a bit. I'm far closer to the truth of the matter than the software salesman who wrote this PR department press release article.

    (PS: Sometimes new versions of software actually are better. Mostly not, all things considered, especially not when allow for the huge free boost that your new hardware provided, but it does happen. Crikey mo, the latest versions of Photoshop are actually much nicer to use than the likes of CS2 was not so long ago .... but then that was inevitable. Adobe do like to change things and it wasn't as if anything they could do would have actually made it worse. The only way left to go was up. But it still only functions at all because of doubled and redoubled hardware.)

    (PPS: Sometimes we also see really significant progress in software. That simple web page example I mentioned above - now you can recode it using nothing more than HTML5 and CSS3 and not have to change it again except to improve it here and there. Simple, practical, easy to code, concise, and lightning fast. It's a massive improvement over the awful HTML 4.x or XHTML that came before. But everybody still writes new pages every year or two using 16 Javascript includes and a complex, bloated framework, and the web gets worse. Similar arguments apply in many other areas.)

    (PPPS: try running some nice old software on modern hardware. Fast? Responsive? We are talking instant!)

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: You've got it backwards

      You make some good points.

      It's also interesting to consider the Playstation 3, as an example. The hardware remained the same during it's lifetime yet what was achieved improved greatly. Developers were forced to fine tune due to the fixed hardware and the results speak for themselves.

    2. Steven Roper

      Re: You've got it backwards

      " you can recode it using nothing more than HTML5 and CSS3...everybody still writes new pages every year or two using 16 Javascript includes and a complex, bloated framework..."

      This philosophy is the backbone of our business at work. Our websites are more expensive than those of our competitors, but that's because we custom-build them for each client from our own codebase, the old-fashioned way. No Wordpress or Joomla, no jQuery, no huge clunky libraries or frameworks or cross-calls to 15 different CDNs to turn the site into a lumbering, bandwidth-hogging oil tanker.

      As a NoScript/Adblock user, I designed our development practices with that in mind. One way to guarantee I will abandon your site without even bothering to look at it is to show me nothing but a useless "you need to enable Javascript to view this site" message. Bonus brickbats if I do decide to enable it and still nothing happens because NoScript has suddenly informed me that I also need to enable it for 35 different domains just to look at a fucking picture. Goodbye, and good riddance.

      Our websites do often use Javascript for client-side functionality, but all of our sites at least display content without it and provide a box with a concise explanation as to why Javascript is needed for some functions; e.g. shopping cart, real-time update of picture gallery, etc. Our custom picture gallery works without Javascript but it does a full page load for each image, so we explain that enabling Javascript will speed things up. In short, we give the user a reason to enable Javascript. Not only that, we never fetch scripts or anything else from external domains, so once you enable Javascript for the main domain, NoScript goes away and you need not do any more.

      Our team designs websites the old fashioned way, with little overhead, minimising graphics and avoiding things like Java and Flash entirely. We also do very little in the way of analytics. Other than visitors-per-page-per-month and straightforward sales data, most clients don't need or want a blow-by-blow account of each user's actions on each and every page. Only what is needed to make the site work is included, with no bloat or unnecessary crap.

      Simplicity is our main selling point. This means our sites load blisteringly fast and are easy and cheap to maintain. When we show our clients that, most of the time they're willing to fork out the extra upfront dough!

      1. pakman

        Re: You've got it backwards

        "As a NoScript/Adblock user, ..."

        I agree with your sentiments here. Try blocking the javascript on a well-known mapping site. This is the message that you get:

        "When you have eliminated the JavaScript, whatever remains must be an empty page."

        I tend not to use this particular site much any more. I find the cod-Zen tone a bit offputting, but perhaps that's just me.

    3. Robert Helpmann??

      Re: You've got it backwards

      Yes, good points. Another issue with replacing software with the next new shiny every time there is one is down to having to retrain staff. The new and improved interface foisted on people who have spent the requisite time to learn the previous systems forces them to learn a completely different way of doing the exact same task. Simply rearranging the menus on an existing system will negatively impact productivity and reworking entire systems even more so. Multiply that out across a large organization... sometimes the appropriate response to people spouting the sort of thing the author has is, "Go disrupt yourself."

      1. Tom 13

        @Robert Helpmann??

        ",,,forces them to learn a completely different way of doing the exact same task. "

        I regret that I have but one upvote to give you for that remark, so have a virutal pint as well.

    4. Tim Almond

      Re: You've got it backwards

      I still install IrfanView as my image viewer because despite certain other improvements, the developer has stuck to keeping it small and fast. It's something like a 2mb installer, and you click an image and *boom* it's there. You click using the built-in viewer in Windows, you're waiting a few seconds for it just to load.

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: You've got it backwards

      2 Thumbs up as Siskel & Ebert used to say.

      I have variously been referred to as Old Smurff, a dinosaur, that old bloke etc. I suspect you have as well.

      The "throw it away and start again" culture is responsible for a great deal of shit. If you want the perfect example, look at what happened when they tried to rewrite Netscape!

      And we keep inventing tools and frameworks and whatever the latest buzzword is, that are buggy and slow and by the time that they are basically functional, they are replaced by new ones that are buggy and slow and it's deja vu all over again. I have had enough of learning this weeks buzzword which is rarely more functional the buzzword from the last decade (or two).

      Hardware engineering is what enables incompetent developers and tools suppliers to deliver worse products year over year. No version of Word was a performance improvement, and the 10,000 bugs that are still in the code are never going to be fixed.

      Oh dear, seems like we will need to start again with Word after all ;(

      1. yoganmahew

        Re: You've got it backwards



        I work on a system developed in the 1960s. The operating system, architecture and hardware have been continually upgraded since then. We used to load application software updates every week, now it is every month and the gods of release would like it to be every quarter because that's what cloudy agile does... the point being, we tinker with it all the time to eke out small improvements and all those small improvements add up.

    6. batfastad

      Re: You've got it backwards


      Prime example... Loading an Excel file in Office XP on my Windows 7 VM at home. Compared to Office 2013 on Windows 7 at work, with SSD and Core i7 no less. Instant in Excel XP, ~3s in Excel 2013.

      Do I need a ribbon with gradients and rounded buttons when flat, easily drawn menus will do? No I don't. But a UI design committee and development team somewhere decided I did. A simple example of changes made by developers throughout applications.

      Developers/designers will use whatever latest shiny they can, so long as performance doesn't get significantly worse with that iteration of the product.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: You've got it backwards

        agreed batfastad - I'm throughly sick of Office having year on year decreased my productivty (when I have to use it) by decreasing speed, changing UI's, harder to read UI's, and software bloat slowing things down. Instances of 'weirrd behaviour' seem to be increasing year on year, too.

    7. Fatman

      Re: You've got it backwards

      <quote>By "better" we mean that it may or may not bring functional improvements and useful new features, but these almost always come at a horrendous cost in code bloat, responsiveness, and system overhead. Oh, and a whole new set of bugs and expensive UI changes that cost way more in lost time and training than they ever save in productivity. By the time two-thirds of the bugs are sorted, of course, we throw the whole expensive and now fairly workable system away and start again.</quote>

      Another poor bastard who had to deal with Windows 8 being foisted on his company.

      And, then some manglement genius decided that Windows 10 (Microsoft's best operating system to date) is the cure.

    8. Tom 13

      Re: You've got it backwards

      While there's a lot of truth in what you write, it obscures an even more important truth:

      Because the hardware keeps getting faster, larger in capacity, smaller in size or energy consumption, the hardware guys have a problem: How do I sell it when what's out there already does what they need it to? The answer is bloatware and MS have been happy to oblige them.

  4. elreg subscriber

    Is author using "anti-virus" per chance?

    "Sure, it takes a few less seconds than it may have back in 1986, using Microsoft Word on the first Macintosh Plus, but where’s that thousand-fold improvement from Moore’s Law?"

    Not for me.

    When I upgrade my Linux system I can often feel clear speed-ups in many applications.

    I've found that by far the number one cause of slowness on Windows systems is the ever growing black-list of signatures and the interception of system calls by anti-virus software to compare file contents with said signatures.

    Does the author use Windows? Is he running an anti-virus too?

    1. Naselus

      Re: Is author using "anti-virus" per chance?

      tbh, not for me either, and I'm on a windows system with an antivirus.

      Hell, the first thing I did when I read that line was open up a word doc and timed it. About half a second from my finger hitting the mouse button to Word springing up, fully-loaded and ready to go. I don't think that that half-second is crushing my productivity. I'm not rushing to ditch Office 2013 and shunt to 2016 because of it, and I'm not really going to be appalled if I find that the half-second delay hasn't reduced to a half-picosecond delay in the new suite.

      The author's attitude falls into the trap of not realizing that there's change that NEEDS to happen, and then there's change for the sake of it. Moving from a frame rate of 20 to a frame rate of 40 is a necessary optimization. Moving from a frame rate of 150 to 300 is not. Replacing an elderly, mission-critical system that you can no longer get the parts for is necessary. Replacing on that is still doing it's job and can be repaired just because 'it's old' is not.

    2. Anonymous Coward

      Re: Is author using "anti-virus" per chance?

      @elreg subscriber - I've been using Linux since Mandrake Linux was about, and whilst Linux has become easier to use over the years (overtook Windows a few years ago IMO), and is often a tad faster than Windows doing much the same thing, I can't honestly say that it's as fast as I'd expect it to be given the increased speed of the hardware I have now compared to when I first started using it.

  5. Stu 18

    A bit too long on the bong me thinks

    what a load of drival.

  6. Captain DaFt

    TL;DR version:

    We could sell more boxes and software if you'd just chuck out what you're using and upgrade constantly.

    Sure it works, but it's Old!

    Go on, do it! All the cool kids are doing it!

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    Road to Nowhere?

    Consider the last several decades of ever-accelerating IT goodness. People can find each other for trading, social, and political purposes, far more easily than before. Vast forests no longer need to be pulped for mere paperwork. Millions may now work from home if they prefer, and do well. Far more people worldwide have a chance of making a difference, or at least a splash. Much of Humanity's knowledge base is just a google away. For the 'slow' ones, youtube offers endless distraction, always a good thing. Space probes soft-land on moons of remote gas giants, all in living colour.

    In short, the world has been stunned by IT's incredible successes. It's gone to our heads. If all this is possible, what wonders could the next advancement bring? It's only natural that we're easily led farther along the garden path with the promise of yet more miracles. And who can say that won't be happening? Not me!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Road to Nowhere?

      The problem is, all of those bits have been in place since around the year 2000.

      And one can argue that most of those success are down to the electronics people rather than wholesale rip-and-replace of in-house IT systems.

      I suppose 2000 was the magic year because Y2K mania was the last good excuse for rip-and-replace, and a lot of older systems that were _not_ written with thought for the future ended up getting replaced.

  8. Zvyozdochka

    I agree but ...

    Systems should match business function. A good implementation doesn't place restrictions on future innovation in business process, and excellent solutions integrate legacy systems with a migration plan if necessary.

    In our business we're undoing a number of clients that went hell-bent into 'cloud' (cost and performance).

    We also keep plenty of Exchange 2003 servers running. People might be surprised how fast Office 2003 is on current hardware too!

    We have a number of clients running VMS, on legacy equipment.

    IT's planned obsolescence (looking at you Apple) has to stop.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I agree but ...

      "IT's planned obsolescence (looking at you Apple) has to stop."

      Why not? They do that to ensure a captive audience. As your hardware ages, it'll start to get flaky or the pieces you need to keep it running become scarcer and scarcer (or more and more expensive). Eventually, it'll break and you'll find ALL the hardware makers follow the same creed--in order to stay in business. So what happens when an unplanned obsolescence hits and your only alternatives have planned obsolescence? Oh, and they have the legislature's ear, too?

      It's like with vacuum cleaners. No sensible manufacturer makes one that'll last 50 years anymore. After all, who hears of Kirby or Electrolux anymore? Same for permanent medical cures or vaccines. Who does those anymore when you can pull in guaranteed repeat business?

  9. cantankerous swineherd

    MBA speak.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    And we all dance round again

    Working in IT is working in the fashion industry. Knowing a little about the next-big-thing pays better than knowing a lot about the current thing. Trapping us into becoming perpetual students. Masters of nothing.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: And we all dance round again

      Perpetual studenthood keeps you young at heart (and mind).

  11. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

    The old 'Snake Oil Salesman' argument

    That seems to be taught to MBA (and Apprentice Candidates).

    Don't worry, the next module will cover things like ROCI.

    But is something is working to spec, running withing predicted downtime levels and frankly 'doing what it is supposed to' then why the F**k would I want to replace it.

    Try telling this gotta buy the newest Shiny-shiny to Airlines. Their tools (via Planes) have expected working lives of around 30 years. Just because the 787, 737-Neo, A320-Neo and A380 are in Service don't expect all Airlines to magically stop flying everything else.

    Why don't we Tar and Feather this guy? After all that often happened to Snake Oil salesmen in the wild West.

  12. Anonymous Coward

    Say what?

    Today we open a document in Microsoft Word - even on a multi-Ghz machine with a solid state disk and plenty of RAM - in a process that always takes a few seconds.

    I'm currently on a $199 netbook that I bought almost five years ago and it was end-of-line clearance then. Opening a doc in LibreOffice is pretty much instant. What the fuck piece of shit machine are you using there?

    Not only that but if I'm going to spend an hour or so working on a doc then it hardly matters whether it opens in one second or one minute: as a percentage of the whole work process it's an irrelevantly tiny amount.

    btw, I recently bought a $299 HP notebook from AusPost and it's much faster. I'll send you the old netbook out of sympathy.

    1. P. Lee

      Re: Say what?

      >What ... machine are you using there?

      Probably quite a fast one, but which is burdened with A/V, group policies perhaps a couple of virtualisation systems. It is probably also sitting there searching for new files to index and upload when you least expect it. Then there is the data which is held, not on the SSD (that's just for the OS), but on one of the beloved cloud services at the other end of an internet link which makes 4mbit token-ring look fantastic and is located (despite cloud-geolocation) not on a server in the next office (as used to be the case) but hundreds of miles away probably on links and servers with massive contention. Gone are the racks of servers running at 5% utilisation running "in the computer room." Now we have much higher latency offsetting higher compute speeds.

      The PC probably doesn't even process data. That's not allowed - fat clients are out - we couldn't afford the oracle licenses and still no-one has bothered solving the remote software management problem. Let's face it, it isn't in MS' interest to reduce the Windows management ecosystem and there were no other significant competitors until Cloud came along and that is still very immature. PC's are becoming little more than dumb terminals connected with a really inefficient GUI. HTML is the closest thing we have to a remote-rendered GUI. It manages all the reflow required for various sized screens and vendors spend all their time making sure that doesn't happen. All that screen width and the website squeezes itself into a little strip down the centre and creates useless blank space on either side - (eh El Reg?).

      If I ruled the world, Cloud would private and be seeping into a secure room in the local office with automated DR back to the DC. A blade chassis with some storage replicating off the DC; automated checks to ensure users are using the closest chassis to them. At that point, even remote desktops with large screens are utterly feasible. You just need to make sure to balance compute, storage and local LAN switching. Far easier in a local office than in a DC with just a couple of fat (but never fat enough) WAN pipes.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Say what?

        I won't quote your tract of wise words as in this case the writer of the original article is unlikely to be in that situation. More likely to be sitting in front of a stand-alone Apple Wank Mat, er, laptop.

    2. Tom 13

      Re: Say what?

      No, no, no. You're using LibreOffice, he's using MS Word. That's your difference right there.

      I have to disagree about the time to open though. A lot of work these days is done opening multiple files and cutting and pasting into a new document or cross-comparisons. For work like that the opening speed slows you down tremendously.

      Also, since he is using the MS Office Suite, his work environment may be one that is heavily macro-centric. That can be a hell of a time AND memory hog depending on the document. In fact a couple months back we had some idiot send out an Excel template (locked of course) that was formatted, formulated, and macro-ed in such a way you couldn't even open the damn thing on a new i7 desktop with 8G of ram and nothing else running.

  13. chivo243 Silver badge

    To drink the kool-aid

    or to just sip it from time to time.

    I've lost count of how many times we were promised better performance, fewer problems etc. with a new improved system. I know it's partially because of the "powers that be" but our department has a couple of guys who love living on the bleeding edge.

    I love it when what it says on the tin and what we see are not the same. Then my words of caution seem to carry weight on the next project.

    I'm all for improvements, but when they deliver...

  14. Christian Berger

    The problem may be in the way we develop software now

    Today many people write in languages/environment which try to abstract complexity away from you. Essentially this makes you write hugely overcomplex pieces of software without even knowing.

    Adding to this is that many people now grew up on badly designed systems. They never experienced the joy of having a small subset of orthogonal features which add up to something great. That's why they design systems piling feature upon feature.

  15. localzuk Silver badge

    Only if the new is an improvement

    Blindly moving on to new things simply because they are new is a moronic strategy for development of any business.

    How about the tried and true method of - identify a problem, evaluate solutions, choose the best solution for the problem and deploy that solution?

    Now, I posted in another thread saying that a company that is relying on software that is 25 years old is likely itself struggling. What I'm saying here isn't counter to that. It merely means that you need to be able to identify your problems effectively also.

  16. Mark Honman

    For as long as I've been developing software - 30 years now - there has been the problem of software projects being expensive and late. Over time the "industry" has tried to address this by providing frameworks of various kinds that are supposed to either take work off the developers' shoulders, allow more developers to tackle a given project, or allow cheaper (= less skilled) developers to be used.

    That leads inevitably to a profusion of modules and interfaces (to prevent the multitude of developers tripping over each other), acres of crap code (due to hiring of "cheaper" staff), and frameworks that are themselves bloated as their feature-set grows to make them more all-encompassing.

    And the net result is that the software is still late, but bloated and inefficient, wiping out the gains from Moore's law.

    When you add to that the inevitable management push to deploy software before it is truly ready, and the massive organisational cost of end-user retraining (never mind hours lost due to bugs in the new software), the cost of an IT change is very much more than the development cost of a new system.

    I should be the first one to admit that I'm not at all keen to maintain someone else's manky old code. Even though when hunting for bugs in old code it feels that it would be so much easier to rewrite the whole thing from scratch that to get into the heads of the guys who wrote it, the reality is that by the time one is 2/3 of the way through a rewrite the "new" system has become too big for any of the team to grasp in its entirety, and the cycle is well on its way to repeating itself.

    1. Tim Almond


      The problem with abstraction is that you can just end up moving the problem and burying it deeper. Abstraction costs in many ways that people don't understand, and most people do not think too hard about the risks and costs of massive levels of abstraction.

      I've decided that I'm going to rewrite my personal website away from Wordpress. Because at this point, it's just this massive, unmanagable beast. I added a new page to my site and noticed it appeared at the end of the menus. So, I moved it in the menu editor. And it didn't move. Now, where's the problem with this? In the theme I'm using? Server side? Client side? In Wordpress? So, fixing it means digging through a load of PHP or JS code to find the answer. In that time, and all the times in future that I might need to do that, maybe it'd just be better to rewrite it as some .htm pages and some .inc files for the headers.

    2. Tom 13

      @Mark Honman

      And the net result is that the software is still late, but bloated and inefficient, wiping out the gains from Moore's law.

      Ah grasshopper, you have missed the salient point!

      If software development did not wipe out the gains of Moore's law, we would only have need of five or six computers in the whole world.

  17. Doctor Evil

    Utter bollocks!

    Change itself has a significant cost in terms of lost productivity. Change for the sake of change is ridiculous.

    Consider the lowly ribbon in MS Office. People who hadn't used Office previously didn't face nearly as much of a hurdle as did those who were used to the old way of doing things, which was suddenly ripped away from them, and for what? So that you could ... continue doing the things you used to do, but in a different way. So that you could hunt for things you knew exactly where to find previously. So that you could click on shiny colourful icons instead of using the keyboard shortcuts you were used to.

    And spare us that vapid "wielded like a blade, cutting a swath through markets and competitors" horseshit, Mark Pesce. I venture to bet that you've never produced anything of any real significance yourself.

  18. Dan 55 Silver badge

    Ok, JavaScript for everything it is then.

  19. Grikath

    Is it Friday yet?

    If ever someone was in need of a Cattleprod..

    Good to get a reminder the Boss is not fictional, and a Natural Force of Menace though. Points for that..

  20. Warm Braw

    >computers certainly feel faster than they did thirty or forty years ago

    That's largely because 40 years ago people were dropping off decks of cards at the operator window and collecting the resultant listing from their pigeon hole several hours later. Mind you there's a difference between response time and efficiency.

    I miss cards - they were great for leaving notes for the milkman. Don't seem to see them around much any more either. You know, it was all fields around here...

    1. Terry 6 Silver badge

      @warm braw

      That's true enough.

      The response time when I was a teenager at school 40 years ago, marking cards with that funny pencil, putting them in a neat stack, sending them off and waiting for them to come back from a computer centre somewhere was certainly a long lead time.

      Somehow the BBC Micro sort of solved that problem. And it hasn't improved much since then IMHO

  21. 27escape


    IT is becoming irrelevant as the workers increasingly rely on their own 'devices' and bring cloud services with them.

    Business units specify and implement moves to cloud systems without involving IT, "who just get in the way and slow things down".

    Sales gets Sales force, legal, HR, operations, finance all go to SAP, often as separate teams.

    Developers code and deploy against AWS as IT cannot provide stable systems.

    Legacy kit was virtualised and moved into the DC or a cloud provider years ago as IT could not

    support the equipment.

    End users all know their OS of choice and the applications they need to do their jobs, IT no longer

    need to help out with Excel etc, the users are more expert nowadays.

    IT may have to help out with HD swap outs and windows re-installs but thats getting to be the limit

    of their involvement. Senior staff expense new high-end laptop purchases, IT only get

    to specify laptops/desktops for low end staff, though often the finance team has the account

    with a preferred supplier and just orders more of the same with hardly a thought about required use.

    Phone systems are becoming virtualised and call routed to mobiles, no need for managing a phone switch and patching.

    IT only need to provide network pipes/wifi, access to printers, service account creation (office365 etc).

    The article really should be suggesting - Junk your IT job, before the company junks you!


    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Disruption

      27escape, I think you need to ask someone in your IT department to explain why you don't need to press return at the end of every line.

      1. chivo243 Silver badge

        Re: Disruption

        @Doctor Syntax

        I don't think he can find the bullet point tool thingy in the Office ribbon...

        However, he does make a few valid points. I have seen lots of services removed from my department. I can't say I miss the extra work (headaches) these outsourced services brought. Now they are someone else's headaches.

    2. P. Lee

      Re: Disruption

      >Business units specify and implement moves to cloud systems without involving IT, "who just get in the way and slow things down".

      but watch them come whining back to IT when they discover that their cloud UI is dog-slow and they accidentally pushed all the customers' financial data to all the customers' mobile devices. A dev who worked for the company who got the out-sourcing contract saw the customer had no-idea about IT and realised they could skip the "design" and "test" parts of the "design-build-test-deploy" cycle and pushed a change into prod which corrupted a critical database. Someone else mistook replication for backups and now the company has no financial records. Regulators are banging on the door to get in and customers are banging on the door to get out.

      Hello? Ashley Madison - is that you? Sony? Is that a lack of IT expertise in your company?

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Disruption

      You have hit the nail on the head. My employer, years ago, said "We are not in the IT business!". So we are "cloud sourcing" our processing to a 3rd party vendor. The older IBM mainframe system is the first target. I have been told that "phase one" is 98+ complete and very little of the "new business" is being done on that system. Unfortunately for me, that is the one that I support. So I'll probably be gone in 6 months. I'll be 63. Which is too young for the government benefits and too old to actually be hired by someone. I guess what I can hope for is some "ad hoc" technical work as a consultant. I think that eventually the CEO plans to only have business application developers and maybe some desktop support. Except that the latter can also be out-sourced to something like "Geeks R Us".

  22. proops

    Wrong premise

    I think the problem with this article is its starting point: "Legacy systems tie you to unproductive legacy thinking and lead to stagnation."

    There's a huge assumption that because it's old it's going to be disrupted by something better. But systems aren't just about technology: they're about people, both within your organisation and beyond it: customers and business partners. How many businesses are ready for their IT department to jeopardise those relationships?

    Believing that legacy systems are the only way forward will of course lead to stagnation, but given that this forum is IT-focussed I don't think there will be too many Luddites here.

    Disruption is already a cliché despite being thoroughly unproven in the enterprise. Certainly entrants have disrupted long-standing business models and those are easy to reel off. But how many businesses have successfully disrupted themselves to conquer new markets without losing existing customers? Amazon EC2 is all I can think of and it's not an easy model to emulate.

    And more relevant to this article, how many existing businesses have done that by buying a new piece of software? Would the author care to offer any examples?

  23. Doctor Syntax Silver badge


    It seems a few people need to remember what a legacy is. If your old aunt dies and leaves you a legacy of, say, £10,000 are you going to turn it down because it's, like, old?

    And in terms of IT that legacy system which has been ticking away for however many years supporting profitable business is helping to pay your salary.

    1. Mike 16

      Re: Legacy

      In the IT world, "Legacy" is more likely to be like that hide-covered chest in the cellar of the ancestral home (or Miskatonic University). The one of which it is unwise to ask "What sort of hide is that?"

      That said, despite the points made by the author, the philosophy suggested would work better in a world where the "upgrades" did not come with substantial stability and security issues. I'm looking at _you_ Apple. Isn't it about time for a usable release of OSX? 10.6.8 is getting more than a bit long in tooth, and I'm starting to feel like a Chicago Cubs fan: "Wait till next year".

  24. Christopher O'Neill

    "Today we open a document in Microsoft Word - even on a multi-Ghz machine with a solid state disk and plenty of RAM - in a process that always takes a few seconds."

    In the current versions of Word yes, but it's pretty much instant when using Word 2003 ;)

    1. rnturn

      "...a process that always takes a few seconds."

      Is that delay seen when opening the document once Word is already loaded? Or is it taking seconds because you clicked on the document's icon and had to load Word in order to manipulate it? Given the ever increasing size of software like Word, I suspect it was the latter case.

  25. BinkyTheMagicPaperclip Silver badge

    Dear author, please give up and return to sales and marketing

    Almost all of the article is rubbish.

    First, computers are faster, work gets done faster, and they do more. A few bloated updates to applications does not change this.

    Incremental change is quite clearly the best way to go - revolution doesn't usually work.

    There's a reason why OpenGL still struggles to update to new, clean versions, and has vast amounts of cruft - no-one is prepared to put in the multi million hours to recreate a bug free AutoCAD for no real benefit.

    Likewise, when Microsoft did mostly the Right Thing with Vista (it was released too early and OEMs unfortunately twisted MS' arms to have substandard minimum hardware specifications, but it laid necessary groundwork) what happened? Microsoft moved too far, too fast for the market. It introduced a new driver model (somewhat refined since) that improved performance and functionality, took advantage of hardware better than XP did, increased security, and added features.

    The new security features broke applications, drivers took months to be usable despite years of advance notice to the IHVs. Users didn't like the interface changes, or the enforced security.

    Roll on three years to Windows 7, and suddenly everything is 'peachy' despite the fact it's not that different from Vista. True, the graphics driver model has changed to use less memory and the interface has been made more coherent, but mostly it's because machines that can run W7 properly are shipping, drivers have been updated and applications changed, and the system made less secure by default.

    Granted, there are tipping points at which it's more economic to recreate than update, but it's unwise to underestimate the sheer amount of real world use an existing system has been adapted to cope with.

  26. Tim Almond


    Over 20 years ago, I built a piece of code that showed a customer's summary in a place I was working. And I know from someone still working there that it's still used. It's had a few changes because of bugs and enhancements, but it's still there. As I built it as a separate function from the old mainframe screen, someone stuck a different thing in front of that function and it now produces XML and that gets used by the website. It's been through so many bits of bug fixing and enhancement that all their stuff just works. Throwing it away, when it works, even with higher costs of enhancement would be nuts. You'd be starting from the same place that I was at 20 years ago, and I promise you that it would have more bugs than the current version.

    Almost everything can just be improved upon today. If you've got an old VB6 system, you might want to rewrite it because of getting hold of people or the software, but I know places running on code based on .net 2.0 and they do so because it just works. I know a framing shop that run a DOS application for calculating frame sizes. Because it does the job.

    Reading this chap's bio, it seems he's never actually worked in corporate IT.

    1. Tom 13

      Re: code based on .net 2.0 and they do so

      That is such newb code. Last place I worked had a whole department that was using software that depended on Delphi 2.0, BDE 5.0.x.x (It's been a while and I no longer remember the exact 4 level revision, but I do recall it was CRITICAL to getting it running right), and Crystal Reports 7.0.2 (also a critical version number; something about a subset of the functionality you could put on a shared drive and not have to pay for additional Crystal Reports licenses).

      Okay, okay. About the time I was leaving (7 years ago) they were in the process of re-writing the whole thing because nobody currently programming it understood the infrastructure any more. I do believe they were re-writing in Visual Studio with a .Net 3.0 framework.

  27. Anonymous Coward

    I totally agree with him...

    ...can we have a few hundred million, expand our team 100 fold and retrain all our staff (not just IT), to find out we're doing exactly the same stuff with just a different interface.

  28. Naselus

    How many IT departments can say they are the most important element of the business?

    I work for an architect. Amazingly, the most important element in our business is the architectural design guys. I strongly suspect that they always will be, on account of the fact that they're where the money comes from. No matter how much we 'disrupt', unless we decide to jack in this whole 'drawing buildings' thing and become a cloud provider, we're still likely to be taking a back seat to the guys who do our core function.

    Junking all our existing systems and replacing them might change that, very briefly, because no-one aside from IT would have the slightest idea how anything works. That might not be a positive move from the business's point of view, though.

    Most of the rest of the article was similarly idiotic tripe; I just couldn't let this pass.

  29. william flipflops


    I have run a spreadsheet for years. I think 30 ish

    Used excel for ages and managed to bring it with me through win3.1 95 98 vista win7

    Can't make it work on win8 and 10

    Now using open office and the same sheet now takes 2 minutes instead of 2 seconds

    That's progress

  30. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Why should IT *ever* be the most important part of a business?

    If it is, you're doing it wrong. In any business the most important part is the part that makes the revenue, since that's what allows the business to continue to operate as a going concern. Unless you are an IT service provider, IT is a cost and generates no revenue itself. IT may make your business more efficient and you can now sell 10x as many widgets since you can sell them over the internet, but widgets are still the most important part of your business, not your webserver, despite what the IT department may wish to think.

    1. theOtherJT Silver badge

      Re: Why should IT *ever* be the most important part of a business?

      Not sure why someone would downvote that.

      It's like saying "The finance department is the most important part of the business! Without the finance department, none of the staff would get their paycheques, none of the orders for our product would get processed, and none of our suppliers would get paid!"

      I mean, sure, you're going to notice pretty fucking quickly if finance all pack up and go on strike, but that doesn't change the fact that they are there to facilitate the normal function of the business rather than to BE the business.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Why should IT *ever* be the most important part of a business?

      --(withdrawn - not sure I was contributing anything much with the original of this one) --

  31. P.B. Lecavalier

    Choice and Sound Management

    There are two ways to escape this hell: choice and sound management.

    Take Adobe Acrobat Reader. Install size of latest version (15?): 350 MB. Purpose: document viewer (not even editor). Something has gone horribly wrong here! Yet, there are alternatives. You have a choice! Of course when it comes to "office suits" you are limited between proprietary bloated monsters or a free bloated package. But that's software done wrong for people who ask for software done wrong.

    As for those sad legacy systems in many corporate environments, their situation is explained by a complete lack of understanding from managers who know nothing about software development and who believe that to write a program is like making a table: once it's done, it's done. Er, no. It's a perpetual development. Maintenance! Documentation! But then they chose to have it completely frozen, firing the developers as soon as it went passed the second beta, and did not even bother to ask for a copy of the source code because... deciding on things beyond their scope.

    Also, if an organization selects an operating system (Windows) that is known to be variably backward compatible over time for that which you use or built, of course IT is frustrating, but that is the result of a willful choice of helplessness!

  32. proops

    open minds

    We've all just proven the author to be correct: because we're using legacy systems, we're demonstrating unproductive legacy thinking.

    I'll show this article to the CEO whose strategy is increasing 7-digit profits by over 5% every year and tell him I now plan to change all our software on a 6-monthly rolling basis.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: open minds

      Totally agree.

      As much as it pisses me of how slow we move here (I mean REALLY slowly), we have a multi-billion pound turn over, large growth and are most likely to lose much of that, if we suddenly go all crazy ass and wacky.

  33. silver darling

    IT - the best argument for a command economy

    Everybody on the same 10 year plan: update > learn > produce > tweak > maintain

    swashbuckling blades giving market advantage? we don't need cut to shreds, we need to produce what the people need, consistently and reliably.

  34. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Who is this Mark Fish idiot anyway...?

    Comin' on 'ere, takin' our jobs,...tellin' us to junk our IT...

  35. Adrian Midgley 1

    Marketeers prevent maintenance, not age


    Old software is as maintainable as it ever was. If it is open source then nobody can prevent you from having it maintained.

    Leaving the main interface elements (of which there tend to be too many in eg Word) unchanged and refactoring the innards should avoid slowdowns of a couple of sorts.

  36. Brian Allan 1

    "Productivity demands that we junk everything comfortable, everything safe, everything stable, set our faces to the wind, and explore the unknown."

    Yup, a sure path to corporate disaster and mayhem! Most businesses aren't quite this stupid... At least the ones still in business!

  37. rhawk301

    "IT has become infrastructure where it should always be a strategic asset, wielded like a blade, cutting a swath through markets and competitors."

    I can't figure out if you are blasting IT for doing their best with very little resources or Executive Management for constantly proving that neckties choke off the air to the brain, for never funding "IT" or infrastructure like it should be a "strategic asset".

    At the core is your article is poorly written because it doesn't ask any critical questions or provide any direction, it just seems to marginalize IT and create dissension within ranks of IT .vs. management. You know, "omg why wont management fund us more to do our jobs", and management is like "why cant you idiots in IT work with 25% less budget this year because you are an overhead cost center NOT a profit center".

    What a company really needs to decide is exactly how strategic their infrastructure and IT are to their company, they need to stop paying sales people solely on commission, and get the IT people in on the action when they are strategic in a sale. IT and infrastructure make a company function and keeps those system whirring so that customers can actually do what they paid for.

    I was sick of working for companies that simply didn't "get it" and preferred to isolate IT and infrastructure and treat them like step-children. So I quit those jobs and started working at a real Company that actually puts money towards the future of infrastructure.

  38. Mellipop

    if you are not part of the solution...

    Then you must be part of the problem.

    The amazing reaction in almost all the comments highlights the problem.

    Perhaps you didn't bother reading to the bottom of the article?

    IT is ripe for disruption. It should be serving as a strategic advantage, not a department that employs people who are risk averse and plainly reactionary.

    This week Netfix closes down it's last on-prem site. And you're scoring points off one another that your tech is oldest and still useful. Dinosaurs, the lot of you.

    Downvote me all you want. That's the only power you have left.

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