Conventional IT wisdom

A few things in IT remain true, despite the best efforts of vendor marketers, management gurus, industry analysts and Computerworld pundits to make everyone believe otherwise:

• The Internet poses security risks. Always has. Always will.

• Users don't understand IT - never have, never will. All they really understand is their jobs.

• No project gets enough time, budget and resources to be done the way it should be done.

• "Free" anything isn't.

• Faster hardware is cheaper than faster software.

• Vendors and consultants are trying to make as much money from customers as possible. It's up to us to get our money's worth. Caveat emptor.

• The best technology doesn't always make a successful product. Then again, the best technology may not be what you need.

• Some vendors really don't like some other vendors - so much that they're willing to let it get in the way of working with customers.

• If nobody else is trying something, there's usually a reason. Maybe not a good reason, but a reason.

• Faster hardware doesn't solve business problems - unless the business problem is slow hardware.

• The CEO will always think consultants' ideas are good because he's paying good money for them.

• Traffic expands to fill the bandwidth provided.

• If you take something away from users, they'll sneak it in the back way anyhow.

• The most powerful influence on CEOs' IT preferences are the people who write for airline in-flight magazines.

• "More bandwidth/memory/storage/processing power than you'll ever need" will last you six months. A year, tops.

• "We've never done it that way before" is a more powerful argument than any cost/benefit analysis.

• IT projects advance or die. Sometimes both. But if it isn't advancing, it's dying.

• Nobody ever got fired for buying the flavor of the month.

• What counts isn't how much a product costs when you buy it. What counts is how much it costs before you finally shut it down.

• Functionality isn't the same as usefulness.

• When you just have a hammer, everything looks like a nail. Most IT people just have technology.

• It always takes longer and costs more to fix it later.

• The systems that last are the ones you were counting on to be obsolete.

• A good idea is no match for a bad habit.

• By the time your CEO has read about a technology, it's no longer a strategic advantage.

• Ninety percent of a system's cost is still training people to use it.

• IT projects fail. Large projects fail more often than small ones. So if failure isn't an option, you'll never do anything.

• If you think your company's users are awful, just wait till you're on the Web and have customers of your own.

• Exactly what you want always costs more than what you can afford - whether it's technology or IT employees.

• Old ideas got that way because they proved useful.

• Data isn't information. Information isn't knowledge. Knowledge isn't manageable.

• Systems aren't made from metaphors, paradigms and methodologies. They're made from code, wires and hardware.

• The Model T didn't become a standard because it was the best. It became a standard because it was the cheapest.

• The hardest problems get solved last.

Hayes, Computerworld's senior news columnist, has covered IT for more than 20 years. His e-mail address is

Copyright © 2000 IDG Communications, Inc.

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