Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Memories of IT - circa 1988 - The Maintenance Dilemma

My company's management, IT and Business, were now grappling with the 'maintenance problem', the generally agreed dictum that 75% or more of a company's IT 'development' budget was actually spent on fixing and enhancing its existing systems, leaving little for delivering the new systems everyone wants to support new business initiatives.

The standard reaction was (and is) usually to find some way to get more new development out of the available resources, resulting in the adoption and eventual abandonment of many tarnished 'silver bullets'. A less common but no more successful approach was to find ways to maintain those existing systems with fewer resources: code analyzers, reverse-engineering in models, and such.

The third and least used (and least understood) approach was to recognize that systems had to be built from the start to require less maintenance effort, so that the 75-25 resource split could be moved towards 50-50 or better. This requires a long-term strategic view of your information systems inventory, one that recognizes that over 7 to 10 years, many of your current systems will be replaced, so why not do this following a strategic plan; otherwise, you will end up in the same state in 10 years, with a few new systems.

One thing that anyone reading this will agree on is that thinking out 7 to 10 years is difficult for the average company, even for its core business of what it sells or services; taking such a long term view of its supporting information systems is really difficult. The allure of the quick fix can be hard to resist. So, in retrospect, the fact that the average insurance company I worked for would even consider a strategic approach to its information systems still stands out as an amazing development that would take my own career down a new path... to Information Engineering.

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About Me

Ontario, Canada
I have been an IT Business Analyst for 25 years, so I must have learned something. Also been on a lot of projects, which I have distilled into the book "Cascade": follow the link to the right to see more.