Thursday, September 25, 2003

How the I.T. Industry REALLY works
Original article found here

There's a big gap between how outsiders think the IT industry works, and how it really does. It's time to spell it out.

What recent graduates think their new jobs in IT will be like

Graduates with skills in IT arrive at their new jobs bright-eyed and enthusiastic. They expect to soon be set challenging problems where they can use their intelligence and creativity for the good of the company. They hope to soon be seen as capable professionals, who've made a real contribution.

Every recent graduate's dream is to start building clever new systems that create value. They want to unleash their imagination in the cause of creating value through clever use of technology. They plan to astound their team with their inventiveness and be held up as an example of the type of employee every company would love to have on the payroll.

How IT jobs usually are

A new starter will arrive at her place of work eager to begin. Her manager has said that he's been desperate to get a new resource and there's work banked up. The new starter will then be sent a whole bunch of boring meaningless documents to read over. She will spend the first month doing not one bit of productive work. Everyone will tell her to enjoy this quiet period, as it's unusual. She's just hit IT industry rule no 1.

IT industry rule no 1 - every IT department pretends that it has ten times the work that it actually does

Finally the manager will arrive with a project. The new starter will look at it and immediately recognise that it should be no more than three day's work. Everything looks straightforward, but it isn't. The new starter soon finds she has a project manager, two business analysts, an administrator and a trainee assigned to the project.

IT industry rule no 2 - no job is so simple that it doesn't require 5 people to do it

After the project manager and business analysts have argued amongst themselves for 2 months and produced three useless documents, the new starter finally gets to begin work on the project. She knocks out a working prototype in a couple of days. She then spends two months sitting around doing nothing while the project manager and business analysts argue about the prototype and organise meetings to discuss it.

IT industry rule no 3 - nothing takes only a couple of days

Finally, the project manager asks her to change the entire thing. He insists she build it in a way that she knows is stupid. He's not interested in her opinion.

IT industry rule no 4 - you are always victim to the whim of everyone else who has a stake in the project.

They now want her to integrate the new system with another system they have. This seems like it shouldn't be too much of a problem, until she actually has a look at the other system. It seems to have been deliberately built to be difficult to understand and unintuitive.

IT industry rule no 5 - a lot of systems are deliberately built to be difficult to understand and unintuitive

To help her understand the other system, the project manager sends her to see the cleverest person in the world.

IT industry rule no 6 - every IT department has someone who's the cleverest person in the world

The cleverest person in the world is not very helpful. He seems mainly interested in patronising the new starter and withholding information from her. She is shown some of his other systems which are also difficult to understand and unintuitive. She soon finds that she doesn't have the information to do what she's been asked. Blame and suspicion begin to be directed at her.

IT industry rule no 7 - your workmates are there to make you look stupid and less important than them

Finally she is called into a room and told off by her manager and project manager.

IT industry rule no 8 - your only reason for existence is to be a scapegoat for management

After being bullied and harassed for weeks on end, the new starter finally completes the project. She is a month past deadline, but at least it's over with. The system will actually never be rolled out. It will sit in test for six months before being forgotten about.

IT industry rule no 9 - the IT department doesn't exist to produce actual output