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I am Joannes Vermorel, founder at Lokad. I am also an engineer from the Corps des Mines who initially graduated from the ENS.

I have been passionate about computer science, software matters and data mining for almost two decades. (RSS - ATOM)

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Thursday
Mar062014

Dismal IT usually starts with recruitment agencies

In most companies, especially non-tech companies, the IT landscape is dismal: the old ERP (vastly unmaintainable) coexists the new ERP (mostly unmaintainable). Sales figures from the ERP diverges from the ones of the Business Intelligence which also diverge from the ones of the CRM. Systems are slow and unreliable. Major evolutions take years, etc. Technical debt has not been paid for years, and interests are usurious.

Root causes of dismal IT are many. Enterprise software vendors have their share of owernship in the mess, but usually they are more a symptom of the problem rather than the cause of the problem. Indeed, had the company been more prepared, no big check would have been signed to such troublesome vendors in the first place.

Such a situation calls for a 5 whys analysis popularized by Toyota.

  • Why is there so much technical debt? Because IT relies on a couple of poorly managed enterprise vendors, with plenty of functional overlaps. Those overlaps are intensified by the respective business models of the vendors that drive each one of them to spread toward other functional areas Both CRM and Web Platform wants to track audience, etc.
  • Why are vendors so poorly chosen and managed? The road to hell is paved of good intentions. A few carefully crafted Request for Quotes (RFQ) typically ends up with a fully disfunctional selection process where one of the worst vendors gets selected. The situation could have been salvaged by hevary hands-on management capable of driving the software vendor toward more reasonable designs and architectures; but middle management is clueless about IT and keeps a low profile.
  • Why is middle-management so clueless? Middle management staff never had to bother gaining IT skills in the past. Moreover, most of them managed to climb the company hierarchy just as well. Why would they bother now with tedious software stuff? Since outrageous fees are paid to software vendors, surely vendors should be able to manage themselves.
  • Why top management made such hiring mistakes? Top management had correctly anticipated that IT was a critical ingredient for pratically every single aspect of the business. However, recruiting talents takes a lot of time. Furthermore, recruiting technical talents requires to become a bit of a technical expert to assess the technical skills. Thus, it's easier to just delegate the problem to a recruitement agency.
  • Why (almost?) recruitment agencies fail in IT? Recruiting in IT is tough. The job market has been excellent for 4 decades now, and there are about zero talents unemployed. Moreover talents don't just expect a good pay: they expect a project that makes sense. Unfortunately, there are few meetings that are less inspiring than doing a job interview with a recruitment agency. As a result, candidates flowing through agencies are invariably poor.

If you want a better IT, the journey starts by re-internalizing every single recruitement.