IT's worst addictions (and how to cure them)

Jargon, data, power -- the first step to IT recovery is recognizing the monkey on your back

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As a result, IT pros often forget they exist to support the business, not the other way around, says Forte's Phillips. "Using a computer should be easier than not using one, but too many IT professionals have created private little kingdoms that make that hard or impossible," he says.

The cure: The tendency to consolidate power is not exclusive to IT professionals, notes Jeffrey Palermo, president and COO of Headspring, a custom software development and consulting firm. But it may happen more often in IT because that's where technology decisions and resources are usually centralized.

"The root cause is that most companies are organized by department instead of by function," he says. "Companies need to realize that having all of their computing resources in one massive IT department that's supposed to magically manage priorities and resources for every other department just doesn't work any more. They need to disband the big IT departments, give each functional department their own tech staff and computing resources, and allow them to set their own priorities."

IT addiction no. 3: Data

Blame impossibly cheap storage or the magical belief that big data will revolutionize your company, but many IT pros are unrepentant information junkies -- and that can lead to data overload, or worse.

"Technology departments are addicted to collecting an inordinate number of events that are not necessarily used for decision support," says Charley Rich, VP of product management at Nastel Technologies, a maker of application performance management solutions. "They just think they need to have all this information, but don't know what it means or what to do with it."

Collecting too much data not only makes it harder to reach decisions, it also increases the risk of damage caused by data leaks, says Dr. Donn DiNunno, quality director at engineering, management, and integration consultants EM&I.

"While data storage advances make data retention and distribution easy, they also make privacy hard," he says. "If data is never erased, potential threats to privacy and security endure for years, in the form of Social Security numbers, credit usage, medical information, and more. The power and visibility of this data puts us at risk."

The cure: IT needs to look more selectively at the data it collects and retains, says DiNunno.

"The cure is a more rigorous analysis of the whole value chain," he says. "Privacy controls, better understanding of the user's needs, working on the value and quality of data, and respecting the use of 'IT power' so that that power doesn't corrupt us all -- these are the cures."

IT addiction no. 4: Old methods

It's natural to fall back on the techniques you know best. But if you're still clinging to the methodologies you were using 5, 10, or 20 years ago, you have a monkey on your back -- and it has a gray muzzle.

"Olde Tyme Methodologies are serious killers of productivity, especially when they're accompanied by an addiction to Voluminous Useless Documentation," writes Steven A. Lowe, CEO of Innovator, a consulting and custom software development firm.

For example, software developers who cling to waterfall methodologies or structured design techniques can end up creating software that's obsolete before it's even implemented, or pouring valuable resources into creating documentation no one else will ever read.

"Back when computing time was expensive and programmers were cheap, these methodologies made some sense," he says. "And if you are working on a static project with a low-skill implementation team, they may still do. But for modern systems with fast time-to-market, they're a death march."

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