Sarbanes-Oxley seen as biggest IT time waster

Deployment of unproven technologies also ranked as potential waste of time in IBM user group poll

IBM users expect compliance with the Sarbanes-Oxley rules governing U.S. public companies to prove to be the least effective or the most wasteful use of their IT resources, according to the results of an online poll of Share members released late Monday.

Share, the oldest independent IBM user group, which is celebrating its 50th birthday this month, polled individuals between Aug. 4 and 15, who were preregistering for its Boston conference. The organization received 444 responses to a short online survey containing five questions. The conference is taking place in Boston through Friday Aug. 26.

One of the survey's questions asked respondents to imagine themselves being transported to 2015 and then looking back at 2005 and what they thought in retrospect would prove to be either an ineffective or wasteful use of their IT time. Twenty-eight percent of those polled cited Sarbanes-Oxley compliance, followed by deployment of unproven technologies (23 percent), purchase of unneeded technologies (19 percent), and continuing support for outdated technologies (17 percent). The fifth-rated bugbear cited by 10 percent of respondents was external consultants, with software upgrades only distressing one percent of those polled.

Robert Rosen, the current president of Share, wasn't surprised that Sarbanes-Oxley is proving to be a major headache. "It's occupying a lot of people's time and they can't figure out what the return on investment is there," he said.

Rosen is hearing that some smaller firms are talking to their venture capitalists and looking to return their businesses to private operations specifically because they can't afford to comply with the Sarbannes-Oxley rules. "It's the law of unintended consequences," he said.

Information security is the dominant emerging trend most likely to impact business computing over the next five years, according to 31 percent of those answering the Share survey. Two other significant trends cited by respondents are the shortage of qualified enterprise-class IT professionals (17 percent) and the outsourcing or offshoring of application development and maintenance (14 percent).

Not surprisingly, the one technological innovation respondents rate as having had the most significant impact on business computing over the past 50 years is the Internet, followed by PCs, IBM's System/360 (S/360) mainframe which debuted in 1964, and the World Wide Web.

Turning to IBM specifically, respondents named Big Blue's DB2 Universal Database as the company's most significant offering over the last 25 years, followed by CICS, MVS and z/OS. The IBM PC was in fifth position followed by the company's WebSphere software. Users have really responded positively to DB2 Universal Database because they can run the software on lower cost servers as well as mainframes, according to Rosen.

The final question posed to respondents asked them which three of a list of named people they believe have had the greatest impact on business computing over the past half century. Microsoft's Bill Gates was number one (55 percent), followed by IBM founder Thomas J. Watson (40 percent), and then Gene Amdahl (39 percent), the chief architect of Big Blue's S/360 mainframe.

While Amdahl is in Rosen's top three, Grace Hopper, placed sixth by respondents (19 percent), was his number one pick. She developed the first compiler for a computer programming language. Rosen referred to her anecdotal claim to fame, that she coined the term "bug" in relation to a computer system that wasn't functioning properly due to an actual bug, a moth, logged in the machinery.

Rosen's third pick, not on the list, is Fred Brooks, an IBMer who headed up the development of OS/360, the operating system for the S/360 mainframe, which he detailed in his 1975 book "The Mythical Man-Month." The book expounds on a principle the author observed, dubbed Brooks' Law, that adding more people to a delayed software project doesn't solve the issue any quicker. Instead, the additional manpower actually delays the project still further as time is spent in educating those new to the project on what needs to be done. "I've seen the thing in action so many times," Rosen said. "It's as valid today as it was then."

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