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back to article Chill out, biz barons... your new IT system might not look like the old one

Organisations that wish to update their IT systems and transform their business need to be careful not to be overly prescriptive with suppliers and overlook other important considerations, an expert in resolving IT disputes has said. Ian Birdsey of Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind Out-Law.com, said that organisations often " …

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What the fuck does "overly prescriptive" mean?

I've been designing IT systems for about 40 years ... My needs (in this context) are your corporate needs, thus my rules apply. If you don't like it, don't offer me the contract.

I am, however, sick and tired of marketards & manglement trying to tell me how to construct the systems that they supposedly hired me to design ... If they already know the details of how it needs to work, why are they paying me obscene amounts of money to design it for them?

To date? No complaints. My completed systems work.

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Meh

Re: What the fuck does "overly prescriptive" mean?

Insulting your customers?

That's a formula for success.

> designing IT systems for about 40 years

40 years ago, IT systems were 1 mainframe and 2 terminals. What are you saying here?

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Re: What the fuck does "overly prescriptive" mean?

Overly prescriptive = telling your contractors *how* you want something done, rather than telling them what you want to do with it, and why. The *how* part should always be the contractor's job, once they know "what". "why" is useful because it allows better solutions to be proposed...

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Re: To date? No complaints. My completed systems work.

Then I bet you don't do SAP; everything I hear about them usually has references to the word clusterfuck.

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Re: To date? No complaints. My completed systems work.

Then I bet you don't do SAP; everything I hear about them usually has references to the word clusterfuck.

Surprised you can hear that over the constant Kerching noises

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Re: What the fuck does "overly prescriptive" mean?

Maybe it means when sites become too anal about controlling what users do on the site based on what devices they use to access a site.

I just noticed that on my tablet, two different browsers, that when I try to copy text from an article, I see "Save Image" and other options. But, "pubads.g.doubleclick" appear in the page's URL...

Of the sites I currently have open in my browsers, it seems to be only in The Register. Turning java script and flash of do not restore copy and paste. Docked and undocked, my tablet behaves this way. Is it The Register, or am I using a flawed configuration?

From my laptop, there is no problem.

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@DAM (was: Re: What the fuck does "overly prescriptive" mean?)

"Insulting your customers?"

If you like. I tell it like it is. Don't like my methodology? Your issue, not mine. I build systems, not egos.

"What are you saying here?"

I've been making money doing this for 40ish years. Your point?

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@Fatman (was:Re: To date? No complaints. My completed systems work.)

No, I don't do SAP. I build systems. It's up to other people to use said systems properly.

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@dssf (was: Re: What the fuck does "overly prescriptive" mean?)

Your configuration is indeed flawed. But then you are a user, not an administrator.

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jake says: What the fuck does "overly prescriptive" mean?

then jake says: "I am, however, sick and tired of marketards & manglement trying to tell me how to construct the systems that they supposedly hired me to design"

(sigh)

maybe if jake used both hemispheres together...

bluegreen wishes jake would make higher S2N posts.

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WTF?

Re: Surprised you can hear that over the constant Kerching noises

I know!!!

Someone once told me that SAP stood for:

Shut up

And

Pay!!!!

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K
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$12.4m in contingency funds...

Thats too efficient!

Now if you public workers in West Virginia really want to know how to work an extra few $$$ into the IT budget, take a look at the projects for the UK Government.

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Examples are often useful

"The state set 12,310 specific requirements for deliverers of the contract but realised, after awarding the contract to a single supplier, that some of the work it specified did not need done, the report said."

Is it possible to give an example of one, or more, of these unnecessary requirements? Have they been classified and grouped according to severity/silliness. What percentage of the total number of examples do they represent. Where did these requirements come from, in terms of who wanted them? Such examples would be useful and interesting.

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Re: Examples are often useful

That'll probably be in the book deal wherein the whistle-blowers tell all and get a place on Stob's column.

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Looking at this another way

The suppliers want to flog whatever they have and usually haven't considered the impact of all the changes to procedures/processes of their client or the costs entailed in such changes. Sensible clients will look past the marketing to assess the total cost of the available offers, including costs of training and changes to all affected procedures. Suppliers who have considered such impacts and have offers which seek to mitigate the effects are often those who win contracts, much to the surprise of the "sell it cheap and run away" suppliers.

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Anonymous Coward

How about a Baker's Dozen?

I was new to computing when I was given the job of implementing an invoicing and sales accounts system that replaced an existing hand-written invoicing and IBM-mechanical-machine (chh chhh chhh clunck wrrrr chhh chk chk ching! Remember those?) accounting system. The package we bought was pretty flexible and customizable, but, one free with every 12 bought? That had to go!

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Anonymous Coward

Buzzword Sentence of the Month

"This seems to be a classic example where the requirements set for a supplier were overly prescriptive, probably to the detriment of focusing on the desired outcomes, improving the business processes and the changes needed to achieve that, and making sure there is sufficient engagement of everyone in the business to achieve that change," Birdsey said.

Congratulations! You are now in the running for BSotM. I would suggest that in your next attempt, you also try to fit in 'stakeholders' and 'leverage' to improve your overall obfuscation rating.

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Re: Buzzword Sentence of the Month

Dunno, seems pretty clear & sensible to me. It's also pretty well known stuff that just gets forgotten and painfully re-learnt so many times.

Just cos it's stated in abstract terms doesn't mean it's crap.

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Thumb Up

I've seen a few projects where the users wanted to spend £millions, and the primary success criteria was 'it has to work exactly like what we already have'...

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IT Angle

IT is not the solution.

Unless we are are talking about digital business I cant for the life of me see how IT will ever bring solutions. Business itself has to bring the solution to the table, IT should only be one of the technical parts of the solution.

Too many business believe that IT is the silver bullet when in fact it is nothing more than one part of a very large puzzle.

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FAIL

Re: Too many business believe that IT is the silver bullet ....

probably because they do not completely understand IT, and try to accomplish the impossible on the cheap.

You get some ID10T who picks up some cheapo shelf-ware, and expects it to do shit it was never designed for, and because it is proprietary code, it can't be modified. I keep telling manglement assholes that before they can even try to replace software, or, $DEITY-forbid, replace manual methods; they need to completely understand what they want to accomplish. And that means doing your homework, something many lazy manglers refuse to do. The end result of taking shortcuts is commonly known as a clusterfuck.

Royal clusterfucks usually involve Oracle or SAP, and a large consulting firm.

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Re: IT is not the solution.

I worked for a large building company, their software was being moved from terminal to a web based system. The web based system took three to five times the work and time for data entry... but it looked pretty.

All well and good saying businesses are wishing to stick to old business practices but often enough new technologies are implemented due to them being new and fashionable rather than improving the business process.

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Re: ...web based system took three to five times the work and time.....

I can believe that. Real world example:

I was working for this company in the mid 1980's using an application written in a 4GL called PRO-IV. (info on PRO-IV can be found here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/PROIV and here: http://www.proiv.com/ )

If you check out the first link, under "History", you will note a comment about MDIS, it was a port (for MSDOS) they had created that is one of the two platforms involved in this example.

The *nix variant was running on a Convergent Technologies S-80 (20 MHz 68020 CPU) supporting 16 terminal users. Data entry operations on this system "flew". Dumping over 140,000 inventory items into a report (for export to a spreadsheet for external manipulation) was quick. Trying the same task under MSDOS on a PC with a 66MHz CPU took forever. And we could not figure out why. The data and the application were on the same machine with only ONE user!

Finally, we made a call, and got the answer - the MSDOS port was going up and down the TCP/IP stack for disk i/o, even when it was on the same machine. No wonder performance sucked. So, I would not doubt that some of your performance issues are network related, in the sense that the workstation must pass the request to the server, wait for the server to chomp on the request, and spit out the result.

The *nix system's terminal screen's fixed text was drawn only once, on entry to the specific data entry screen; if you made multiple record entries, only the relevant data was moved down the wire. With the MSDOS system, the screen was redrawn each time it was changed, contributing to the sluggishness of the app. Needless to say, the shitty performance of a PC with this software convinced the owner to stick with the *nix box for quite a long time.

This points out one of the downsides of a interactive "web app" - everything (i.e. `the page`) has to be sent to the client each time something gets changed.

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Angel

You have to look at what business processes/services you want to deliver...

And the SLAs you will deliver them by. Everything else needs to waterfall from that. You may end up with 12K requirements after that process is over with, but everything needs to stem from what the business impact and utility should be.

Divine being icon, because I'm being utopian here....

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Specify destination, not route

I'm reminded of the old quote apparently from Henry Ford, that if he'd asked his customers what they wanted they'd have said they wanted a faster horse. Probably an urban legend, but exactly the mentality that seems to prevail with tendering.

If you get a taxi, you don't usually say "Go along Hill Road, take the third left, carry on until you pass the supermarket then turn right" - you say you want to go to East Road. The taxi driver's supposed to know the route and anything relevant. The government, though, would phone up the taxi office and say it wanted a navy blue four-wheeled vehicle running on petrol with five seats and a CD player...

To quote a genuine example from a tender a few years ago: "This web application must be written in Visual Basic or .Net". It went on for pages like that, mandating NTLM authentication, two contradictory requirements for the top section of the pages (two documents specified totally different naming and logo requirements, something to do with an ongoing reorg that left it unclear quite which branding actually applied). They did fail to specify a requirement about URL structures which later caused problems, though.

(Oh, to cap it all, after setting up the architecture astronaut job on their hefty cluster of servers, it turned out to run faster on Amazon's smallest EC2 instance - even when that was over a WAN to Ireland, against using their on-site cluster over the LAN. Plus replacing a big chunk with PHP, because there was never actually a need for .Net involvement in the first place...)

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Unhappy

Re: Specify destination, not route

"If you get a taxi, you don't usually say "Go along Hill Road, take the third left, carry on until you pass the supermarket then turn right" - you say you want to go to East Road. The taxi driver's supposed to know the route and anything relevant."

You've never been to Sydney, have you?

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Re: Specify destination, not route

There's nothing wrong with specifying the technologies to be used. If you are a Microsoft shop you are not going to want to have to support Java and vice versa. Nothing wrong with specifying authentication either if you know the pluses and minuses but want anything to fit in with your current tech stack. I can certainly understand why a client would do this. The more important point is the one raised by the article and several posters regarding the desire to "do it the same way as we currently do it". I've seen off the shelf systems turned inside out to try and shoehorn them into current processes that are themselves horrendously inefficient but "the way we've always done it". Sometimes defies belief.

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Linux

Re: ...a need for .Net involvement in the first place..

I, for one, am glad that since I work in a *nix shop; that clusterfuck (.Net) is not found on our machines.

I was cleaning up the documents of an old WindblowZE machine before retiring it, and found: .Net 1.0, .Net 1.1, .Net 2.1, and .Net 3.1, all consuming hard disk space. How did that person manage to live with less than 5GB of free space on a 30GB hard drive, I will never know.

When I found out that the machine was being donated to a non-profit, and they (the non-profit) wanted Linux on it, it was such a pleasure to insert a Live CD, and nuke that sucker from orbit.

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Trevor Pott is a Bad Person and should be eaten by vendors - expert

I demand an operating system with the ability so easily see and navigate between applications that are open. Like multiple overlapping windows and some sort of like a taskbar? Maybe with some sort of hierarchical application discovery system. A menu? Also a way to promote frequently used applications to an easier-to-launch state. A quick launch of some variety?

Seems to be damned near impossible for modern operating system providers to deliver. Oh well, I'll keep on being "overly prescriptive" with my IT suppliers in an attempt to maintain a workflow that works for me, even if that means changing the suppliers in question.

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Re: Trevor Pott is a Bad Person and should be eaten by vendors - expert

"I demand an operating system with the ability so easily see and navigate between applications that are open. Like multiple overlapping windows and some sort of like a taskbar? Maybe with some sort of hierarchical application discovery system. A menu? Also a way to promote frequently used applications to an easier-to-launch state. A quick launch of some variety?"

FreeDOS & DESQview still fits that particular bill, a couple decades later.

"Seems to be damned near impossible for modern operating system providers to deliver."

Only if you're stuck in the grip of marketards ... Have you tried learning to configure Slackware?

"in an attempt to maintain a workflow that works for me"

In many previous posts you claimed that you weren't allowed to make that decision ... Please, do make up your mind.

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Re: Trevor Pott is a Bad Person and should be eaten by vendors -- @jake:

He was having a go at windows 8 you pillock. Will you please *wake up*

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Re: Trevor Pott is a Bad Person and should be eaten by vendors -- @jake:

He was having a go at windows 8 you pillock. Will you please *wake up*

He may have also been trying to take a quick shot at Canonical's clusterfuck called Unity. You either love ir (Unity), or you hate it.

Put me in the hate camp. I can't stand that thing on a desktop.

In every build of Ubuntu I have installed since it appeared, it gets ripped out. I like using Gnome panel with custom launchers for the often used apps; and a "clean" wallpaper for the desktop. After all, one must be able to appreciate the beauty of a certain Girl On Fire (my desktop "wall paper") with no icons getting in the way.

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Re: Trevor Pott is a Bad Person and should be eaten by vendors -- @jake:

@bluegreen, oh, I was having a poke at more than just Windows 8...

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Happy

Re: Trevor Pott is a Bad Person and should be eaten by vendors - expert

Woooosssshhhhh...

There goes the sound of irony flying past your head....blinkered by the fury that is within yourself.

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Trollface

Re: Trevor Pott is a Bad Person and should be eaten by vendors - expert

"irony flying past your head"

Irony. Flying. Flying irony. Well, if it flies, I would presume it could do so over my head. But how does irony fly?

I am confused.

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Anonymous Coward

Lack of empathy from Vendors / Solution Architects

Having worked on major transformation projects for telcos one issue I see is that the Enterprise Architects and Managers of the IT delivery teams can not empathize with the business users who have to use completed solution.

Their view tends to be that the current system is old and the business should just change their processes, because as high level technical people they know the business much better then the business does. The issue here is that the proposed new processes aren't suitable for the business to operate and when these issues are pointed out they are passed off as been just low level detail or the users will change. The EA's and technical team management doesn't ask itself ' if I was a user would this make sense.

I'm also amazed of how credence is given to the functionality the old system did. All the years of customization is simply brushed off as unnecessary work and they believe 'this time we are going to do it right' (despite not doing it right the last 6 times with the same methodology.) Its almost like they believe the functionality in the past was just added for the fun of it, not too solve a business problem.

So I say listen to the users, listen to there small issues and vendors and EA's should stop believing they know it all.

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FAIL

Organizations will specify...

..that the end solution will involve an unrestricted iPad be handed out to everyone who has a management role in the project. With Apps and ALL decisions made based on mind-reading the head of department's hormonal balance that day. Except on Tuesdays when she does lunch with her old mate. Did I mention Apps and free iPads?

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