IT inferno: The nine circles of IT hell

The tech inferno is not buried deep within the earth -- it's just down the hall. Let's take a tour

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"By the end of the project, the specifications, budget, and timescale of the project bear no resemblance to the ones you began with, thanks to users who keep adding in 'just one more thing we should have thought of,'" says Williams. "A developer who has the misfortune to land in this circle will never actually reach the nirvana of being 'feature complete' because the specification itself is never entirely finalized."

How to escape: There is only one way out, and it entails confronting the demons with some hard realities, says Williams. "Escape from this circle is best effected by wielding the magic mirror of painful truth," he says. "This powerful weapon makes the demons look into their own dark hearts and realize that ultimately it is they who have most to lose from feature creep."

4th circle of IT hell: Corporate greed
Description: An acrid forge where piteous creatures drown in a river of molten gold
People you meet there: Corporate executives and shareholders. Also: Donald Trump

This circle is filled with those who put personal financial gain ahead of the needs of customers, says Anthony R. Howard, author of The Invisible Enemy: Black Fox and a technology consultant for Fortune 50 companies and the U.S. military.

About three years ago, Howard was consulting for a brand-name hardware maker when he was asked to design a new server for one of its clients, a major search engine. Howard's design was cheaper and cost less to operate than the servers the search engine was currently using. The customer was ecstatic and ordered $20 million worth. The problem? It would take eight weeks to build, or several weeks past the end of the manufacturer's sales quarter.

"The manufacturer wanted to report that $20 million sale to Wall Street, and it couldn't," Howard says. "So I was placed under tremendous pressure to convince the search engine guys to forget the new design and buy something we already had."

In the end, however, Howard says he persuaded the manufacturer to accept a smaller purchase order for its current machines to fulfill the search engine's immediate needs, with the promise of a larger commitment to the new design down the road.

"When IT architects are working projects that will bring in tens of millions of dollars, the folks in the ivory tower want that revenue ASAP so they can present it to Wall Street -- and collect their bonuses," he says. "At the same time, customers want everything, including products that don't exist yet. It's a double hell."

How to escape: Political savvy, dedication to the customer, and supportive management are the only ways out, says Howard. "Ultimately it's always about the money," he says. "You have to figure out how to deliver the results they want in some other way. But a lot of people just give into the pressure."

5th circle of IT hell: App dev anger
Description: A fiery pit of smoke and brimstone, where geeks and suits alike grow hot under the collar
People you meet there: Programmers, developers, C-level executives

In the world of software development, deadlines are constant, pressure is intense, and tempers flare. When things go south, the inhabitants of this circle tend to scream first and ask questions later.

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