Pushing water uphill

We’ve talked at some length about the friction point between IS and the business, and this is a common source of spreadsheet systems, and the occasional quick and dirty hack.

Most discussions of server based technologies (Excel Services, VSTO, .net, etc) end on the somewhat pessimistic note that if the business isn’t allowed to control the resources it will never work. This clearly indicates a significant lack of trust between the 2 departments.

I can imagine a situation where the business comes up with a good design that neatly stratifies all the components to sensible resources, only for IS to come back and say ‘You can’t do that, and you cant do that, and if you do that we’ll have to cross charge you x millions’.

In fact I’ve experienced it. What did we do? threw together an Excel/VBA hack and went live with that instead.

This makes me think that IS probably can’t stop the business developing systems. What they can do is stop the business from deploying good ones. Where good means well designed n-tier type stuff.

I’m thinking of the times I’ve been refused a sign-on for Oracle and had to use multiple worksheets or Jet. Or the times I have been bounced from trying to install dlls on a server, so in the end I had to replicate the functionality on each desktop. Often its not a straight no, more of a yes, if you jump through all these hoops and wait an unrealistic time.
Seems to me a bit like IS are trying to push water uphill. What do you think?

And as all the problems with the dirty hacks surface in the business, leaving IS blameless, is it a bit self fuelling? ‘Look what a pigs ear they made of that, there is no way I’m letting those Excel clickers on my sever!’.

Anyone else seen this (/make a living from this!).



3 Responses to “Pushing water uphill”

  1. dermot Says:

    As a power user/hacker, I went through this for 15 years, being regarded with suspicion by IS. To me, the correct solution is for IS to reach out to the hackers, offering training and mentoring to help them code safely, and keeping an eye on what they do, so that if it becomes important to the business, it is reviewed and made safe. You can’t eliminate them, so control them.

    Naturally, this cooperative approach with IS doesn’t happen in practice.

    I think one problem is that the IS mission statement is to keep the machines running on a small budget, and not to advance productivity, so hackers seem like a nuisance. Also, the IS staff are rarely hacker types themselves, so there is little fellow feeling, just antipathy towards “those amateurs”.

  2. Simon Says:

    All too true Dermot.
    And IS is normally the first target for cuts.

  3. Marcus Says:

    I don’t know if it’s water uphill or another organic substance of higher density and a somewhat stronger bouquet. :P

    I also see it all the time and have spent the last decade or so making a living from this disconnection. On rare occasion I’ve developed a Jet solution which was eventually migrated to SQL Sever, but only in sheer desperation as we’d well exceeded Jet’s comfort zones. Note that we only migrated the data – the GUI, logic and queries (Excel, VBA and Access) all stayed in place.

    One very pleasant situation I’m now in is an IT supplied SQL Server box with full admin rights which becomes my sandbox and reporting repository. It’s backed up but not supported. This is a far better alternative than a suite of Access databases and a reasonable compromise.

    Dermot’s on to something there also – MSO development in the business should be done in collaboration with IT which encourage training, standards, methodologies, code libraries: enough to give the business flexibility and IT comfort.

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