Tuesday, December 21, 2010

When Did a Website Become Real Software?

Chaos rules in various government IT shops these days.  With tech experience obtained on the 2008 campaign trail, an army of sprites have taken up residence in leadership positions to change government.  The weapon of choice for these tech savvy, tech users is the citizen engagement web site.  This is great stuff, long overdue, but a darker side has emerged, too.

Proving the dictum a little knowledge is a dangerous thing, some of these folks actually think they are technologists.  Attracted to cool end-user tech (content management systems, scripting languages, social media, and mobile apps), they view the rest of IT as "overly complicated, old school tech."  Absent from the tool chest are: business cases, sound security, project discipline, data management, software practice, portfolio strategies, operational procedures, risk management, and... deadlines.

By itself, the lack of appreciation for the difference between real mission software and a content web site is unsurprising and not harmful.  However, the amateur hour is making its way into work on mission systems.

I'll be the first to claim that there is far too much process heavy, narrow minded "we do things this way because we always have" thinking in IT, particularly in the US Gov.   But, in this pendulum swing away from discipline, we're witnessing a 12-year old delinquent in the driver's seat of Jeff Gordon's #24 winging through the streets of DC at top speed.  This can't end well.