The Good-Enough trap

There's a danger out there... It grows in little alcoves and cubicles, where a Group needs a piece of software to fill a particular need.

Smart People create The Solution. Sometimes there is an explicit description of the Requirements, which does not go beyond a handful of users. With or without Requirements, the Smart People select and begin work on The Platform. This selection is based on many criteria: how familiar it is to them (or the learning curve), wanting to add "$Platform programming" to the resume, I just read an article on how $Platform makes $task easy, etc. Usually not on the list is "ability to scale" or "backup support" or "algorithmic efficiency" or "we have supported hardware to run it on" or "plays nicely with other applications"

But The Solution is created and used by the Group. And it works. And the Group is more productive because of it. So naturally, since other groups want to be more productive, they want to be Users of The Solution too. And as the Users grow in number and timezone-diversity, the limitations of The Platform become more apparent. At least to those of us on the back end. Faults, Inefficiencies, Downtimes, Management headaches, these are usually hidden from the Users (or at least aren't visible enough often enough to generate real complaints) Eventually, Leadership recognizes the value of The Solution (or at least, they recognize the value of the increased productivity), and The Solution becomes an integral part of the business.

At this point, we are put into a difficult position. Limitations of The Platform, unscalable User management tools, hardware choices, etc. mean that The Solution needs to be upgraded, improved, or otherwise replaced. But naturally, work on The Solution really doesn't fall into the area of expertise of the Group any more (or at best, fixing The Solution doesn't generate billable hours), and the Smart People who developed it in the first place have either left the company, or are too busy to reimplement it. So it comes down to IT having to choose between: 1) Support and Maintain the Unmaintainable, or 2) Replace it with "the IT way", and deal with the costs of development as well as retraining the Users (and the political cost of insulting the Smart People's Solution) Usually we're stuck with (1).


No comments: