IT Courage

A not uncommon situation occurs, especially in larger organizations, where a department ‘inherits’ an already existing application or system.  This can occur because of a reorganization or because of a recognition that the system needs a better home, or for other reasons.

Sometimes when this occurs, the inheriting group discovers that things are much worse than it seemed.  Problems have been swept under the rug, common software development practices haven’t been followed, production issues occur on a nearly daily basis, etc. etc. etc.

A very rare reaction to this is for the head of the inheriting group to put their foot down.  No more active development, no more adding functionality.  Instead, the situation must be stabilized, with no more daily production issues.

It’s a common sense decision, but it is one that can be hard to make.  The person making the decision has to have some internal credibility already, or be willing to put their credibility on the line.  Since there are so many problems, the end users probably have little confidence in the system anyway, so it is hard for the situation to get any worse, but there can be a perception along the lines of “The system already doesn’t work very well, and now we aren’t even getting any new features.” 

I’ve seen this occur a couple of times the last few years.  The first time, it worked out quite well.  Daily problems became every other day problems became weekly problems became monthly problems.  End users started to gain confidence that the software would actually work.  As new development started ramping up, it was met with less skepticism since confidence had grown.

To the extent that it is possible, fixing endemic daily production issues should take precedence over new functionality.

posted on Friday, October 30, 2009 8:55 PM Print
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