Thou shalt not try to stop departments from experimenting with web services and developing skinny applications for their own uses.
The IT department has often been among them the most conservative and change-phobic in the entire company. "That's not the way we do things and we've been doing this 15 years," is a common type of comment from within some IT departments.
Well, some of the things we'd like to do today--we haven't been doing 15 years--so we are making it up as we go along.
And there are a lot of IT things we have been doing for fifteen years and you know what? Why not let the users have a go at designing simple applications for their specific needs? They sometimes need to be changed.
But it is not surprising to get pushback from the IT departments because they have seven layers of legacy systems to keep running and are backed up on new IT projects from the last century. And the last thing IT departments want to do is to sit down with the users to design and implement an application.
That's why it is better to have the users create their own "skinny" applications using some of the software development platforms and tools. These can be the wiki-type software platforms such as those from SocialText and Jotspot. And it can also be the scripting languages such as PHP and using open source databases such as MySQL.
Why not let the users have a go at designing simple applications for their specific needs? Better than giving it to the IT department which doesn't generally communicate well with users and produces a half-useful product half-of the time.
But IT departments are also about control--just one of many departments within each company vying for pole position. The great loss of control for the IT department was the PC revolution. And it certainly was a revolution because departments could use their budgets to buy their own Apple computers, later IBM PCs, and run their own applications when they wanted to run them, thanks to VisiCalc then, and Excel today.
However, the IT departments have gradually reasserted control over the PC hardware. PCs are very much locked down in most companies in that users have a lot less control over the software they can run and the PC itself. Centralized management of PC networks and development of central provisioning technologies have enabled the priests of the glass house to regain control over the hardware and most of the software.
IT users are still bringing in revolutionary technology from the outside world but the battle lines have shifted. The battle between IT users and IT departments has moved away from the PC towards using mobile technologies such as PDAs, which have become much more "personal."
And departments have also been interested in developing and using collaborative applications based on web services.
The mobile push has been going on for a while now, and IT departments have given in on that one despite initially strong pushback based on security concerns. The skinny application development is based on using wiki-type online web services platforms.
Joe Kraus, CEO of Jotspot, says that the Jot wiki platform can replace the "Excel based applications combined with email which is the way a lot of departments run collaborative projects, and it's messy."
Ross Mayfield, of SocialText delivers the same kind of message. "There are a lot more easier ways to do things than to email Excel spreadsheets to each other."
Here are some examples of simple, skinny applications at http://www.jot.com/gallery/ and http://www.socialtext.com/products/howtos.
It is said that only 20 per cent of an application's features are accessed by most users but I would wager it is more like five per cent.
And needing just five percent - users can use the modern software development platforms to create their 5 per cent solutions for almost anything they need.
Our IT Commandments:
- Thou shalt not outsource mission critical functions
- Thou shalt not pretend
- Thou shalt honor and empower thy (Unix) sysadmins
- Thou shalt leave the ideology to someone else
- Thou shalt not condemn departments doing their own IT
- Thou shalt put thy users first, above all else
- Thou shalt give something back to the community
- Thou shalt not use nonsecure protocols on thy network
- Thou shalt free thy content
- Thou shalt not ignore security risks when choosing platforms
- Thou shalt not fear change
- Thou shalt document all thy works
- Thou shalt loosely couple