It’s Halloween, so Christmas can’t be far away, and you know what that means. Yes, it’s Bah Humbug season again! So here’s my list of the 10 worst trends in computing.
10. Consultants are now the source of all wisdom.
If you need to make an investment, you first add 10 percent in overhead by bringing in an independent consultant to tell the key decision-makers what you want them to hear.
Instead, let’s be each others’ experts. So if you need me to come in and tell your executives how much money they’ll make with computer-telephone integration — no problem! I must be an expert: after all, I wrote a book!
Let’s say you’re an expert too. If you say we should abandon our leased-line systems network architecture network and replace it with frame-relay-based LAN internetworking, so be it.
9. Emergence of the Internal Customer
This is the most idiotic notion in the history of business. Here’s the theory: If my outbasket empties into your inbasket, you’re my customer. You can make the same kinds of demands on my time and complain just as bitterly as a real customer when I don’t deliver on time.
Here’s a clue: Customers pay money for service!
IS groups exist not to provide assistance to their internal customers, but to work with their internal partners to provide better products and services to the company’s real customers.
8. Microsoft has become the new Japan.
Remember when American managers whined about Japan and how you couldn’t compete with it? Well, guess what? Now we have Microsoft.
Microsoft is a formidable competitor, largely because Bill Gates sticks with a product until it becomes a tough product to beat. As IS professionals take over the process of specifying software, many repeat their old mantra but replace IBM with Microsoft, as in “I won’t get fired for buying Microsoft.”
Now there’s a great reason for picking a product.
7. Evolution of client/server, part II: It’s soooo complicated.
Novell succeeded because once you set up your PC with a 50KB pair of drivers, the LAN looked just like a local hard drive and printer.
Look what they’ve done to the simple, elegant client/server model. It’s heartbreaking. Think about the simplicity of the LAN model, folks, and emulate it.
6. Evolution of client/server, part I: SQL.
Do any of you still think SQL was the right choice? I didn’t think so.
When you figure that Codd has 13 of his 12 rules of relational whatever, and that relational purists still flinch at the idea of an index, you get some notion of just how bad life has become. Add to that the underestanding that the power of relational databases comes from your ability to define tables independently and relate them as needed and you understand the power of mythology in our lives.
Face it, folks, SQL is a crying shame. Here’s an industry secret: To define a database, you have to analyze data relationships anyway. In a hierarchical or network database model, you maintain pointers. In a relational model, you maintain indices. The only difference: Pointers give you faster performance.
5. App is now a word.
Presumably because the cost of paper has risen over the years, several publications decided to save space by calling applications “apps,” as in “killer apps” or “great new app.”
I have a hard time deciding which is more noxious: over use of the word “cool” or trying to sound cool by calling applications “apps.”
4. Architect has become a verb.
Did you mean to say “design”? Maybe you meant to say “engineer.” The First Amendment to the Constitution guarantees your right to say that you “architected a great system.” Say it to someone else. I think it makes you sound like a dweeb.
3. Free support now costs money.
Do me a favor. Print one number for use when your product doesn’t work as advertised. Print a different number for me to use when I need consulting support about how to use your product. Charge for calling that number.
2. GUIs are ushering in the end of the PC.
I have one DOS-based application I still use on a regular basis. Even when I don’t really need it, I sometimes launch it anyway, just to remember what snappy response time looks like.
Any semi-educated adult with an IQ in three digits could buy a DOS-based PC and puzzle out enough of the basics in an hour or two to get it running. DOS was simple enough for everyone.
You need at least a Ph.D., and probably a Nobel Prize to figure out OS/2 or Windows, and the problem is obvious: They have syntax, and syntax isn’t user-friendly. Bill Gates may be a genius, but it doesn’t take a genius to figure this one out: One quick glance at SYSTEM.INI would tell anyone with an ounce of sense that this is a Rube Goldberg contraption just waiting to break.
GUIs certainly could have been great. Instead, we have huge, bulky, god-awful slow, multitasking behemoths on our desks so we can do one job at a time but have the rest sitting in open windows. It didn’t have to be this way.
1. Operation systems have replaced religions.
These are operating systems, not religions. I picked Windows despite my loathing for it because everyone writes for it! Got that? Windows and DOS have more than 80 percent market share, so the war is over! Let’s all agree that NextStep and QNX should have all of the market if there was any justice, and that if IBM had any brains they would have adapted Unix to the desktop instead of inventing OS/2. And then let’s get over it.
And I like this industry.

Does anyone else find The Gartner Group annoying?

I’m reviewing its “PC Cost/Benefit and Payback Analysis.” The good news: I now understand the “Productivity Paradox.” It comes from Gartner’s inflated cost numbers.

The bad news: If Gartner is right, a lot of companies are spending far too much on some very basic items.

Example: Gartner’s average hardware cost per system totals nearly $5,000. I compared that with our costs. We use name-brand items: IBM ValuePoint 33-MHz 486 computers, SynOptics Communications Inc. concentrators, Compaq Computer Corp. file servers, and Novell Inc. networks. I can’t get our per-system cost above $3,500 no matter how hard I try.

Another example: Gartner uses a per-system average software cost of $1,000 for four applications per system. Companies with LANs load software from the file server on a concurrent-use basis. All in all, I think we spend about $300 per user on software. (I guess Gartner has never heard of discount software vendors — the Borland International Inc. Office bundle gives you word processing, spreadsheet and database applications for $300.)

So far, I’ve saved $2,200, or about 37 percent off Gartner’s estimate.

In the world according to Gart, the single biggest expense comes from “End-user Operations” — a total of $22,693 over a five-year period. (As an exercise to the reader, how do they know it’s not $22,695 or $22,536? This kind of phony precision looks impressive, but what does it mean?)

If you look at Gartner’s breakdown of this monstrous expense, you’ll find that more than $3,000 goes to “Data Management.”

This translates, I suspect, to filing, which translates to filing paper, which translates to doing your job.
Another $3,400 goes to “Application Development.” Given that without a PC the same people would be developing manual ways of doing the same chores, this also translates to doing your job.

Gartner assigns $6,700 to formal and casual learning — about $1,350 per year. But isn’t this actually time invested in learning to be more productive?

About $7,000 goes to the “Futz Factor,” which I guess means fiddling around making things work right. Without a PC, this time (50 hours per year) would probably be spent sharpening pencils, rearranging the furniture, and otherwise fiddling around. People are like that, with or without computers.

My absolute favorite expense: $1,500 over five years in supplies. Are we talking about the paper needed to print out memos and spreadsheets? Without computers we would still use the paper. Yes, we use more with computers, but this still translates to doing your job.

So in total, nearly $8,000 of the $23,000 goes to doing your job, a lesser amount goes to learning how to do your job better, and about $7,000 represents truly wasted time. My, how problems diminish when you look at them more closely.

Here’s the problem: Gartner has a point, and the point is that we can all improve the ways in which we manage PCs. Gee, what a surprise. Just like everyone else, we should be expected to do a better job next year than we did this year.

Because Gartner is so influential, we’re all going to be hearing about the huge burden we’re imposing on our employers with this life-draining technology. After all, who will our executives believe, The Gartner Group or their own employees?

The definition of an expert here in Minnesota is “a guy from the East Coast with slides.” So I’m expecting Gartner to win without even a chance to debate the issues. Never mind that no employee accustomed to having a PC on the desk would ever give it up. After all, what do they know?