Friday, 8 May 2009

Big is not beautiful.

Michael Douglas' character Gordon Gekko, in the movie "Wall Street" famously said to his audience of stakeholders: "Greed is - for lack of a better word - good". I've never agreed with that philosophy as most, if not all the people who subscribe to it, end up in a worse state than when they bought into it. Unfortunately, there's a lot of innocents that unwittingly subscribe to it as well and get burned even worse. The movie reflected the time at which it was made, where banking and stock markets were the place to be. and the premise that "big is beautiful" seems to have persisted to a large degree even through the current economic crisis: some may even say that it in fact started it, but this is not my point here.

My point is that sadly one area of industry where this philosophy does still persist is IT. This is understandable considering that the financial world was one of it's biggest founders, and even after 20+ years of non-financial use some companies IT is still run by the Finance Department.

So, what's the problem? In a word, inertia.

Talk to any physicist or engineer with any mechanical background and they will tell you that the larger an object is, the more force you need to get it to start. However, once it is moving it will keep moving without much force at all - that roughly is inertia.

You can apply this analogy very well to corporate bodies - you can say they're like a super tanker: once they're moving it's easy to keep them moving, but they take a long time to do anything once they are unless you use a lot of energy.

What's worse is if it loses all power, no matter what the command crew does, it will just keep going on the same course until it hits something hard, and the results will not be pretty - as the real Wall St. found out with Lehmann Bros.

In the IT world the alarm bells should start ringing sooner but, as above, it's a case of whether the right people hear them. I've now heard two with my current employer: a global IT support company. The first was when we started to have to jump through hoops to get even the smallest travel claims approved, the second made me and others where I'm based do an enormous mental double-take. It is that the upper management are considering the option of off-shoring our own IT.

Scott Addams once drew a Dilbert cartoon about this - I thought he was joking!

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