mission-critical

Article: Tukwila Update
By: Michael S (already5chosen.delete@this.yahoo.com), February 10, 2009 8:01 am
Room: Moderated Discussions
Dean Kent (dkent@realworldtech.com) on 2/10/09 wrote:
---------------------------
>Michael S (already5chosen@yahoo.com) on 2/10/09 wrote:
>---------------------------
>
>>
>>By this definition any business worth its salt (with rare special exceptions like
>>stock exchanges) has no mission critical computing applications at all. At worst,
>>some of them have mission critical digital storage.
>>
>
>Have you ever actually been involved with IT in a business? Ever been involved
>in business decisions and management? If you had, I don't think you would make that statement.

True. Lucky me.

>
>Let's say you work for a manufacturing company, and the application that manages
>production screws up. Raw materials orders don't happen properly. Production schedules
>get lost or screwed up. If this is done by computer, how long do you think it takes
>before the company loses so much money (ordering the wrong amount of raw materials
>or producing the incorrect amount of products)? If the company is small, it can
>be done by hand - but a very large company using computers will no longer have the
>expertise in-house to handle the volume of transactions manually.
>

Usual divide and conquer strategy should apply. What's impossible at corporate level becomes doable at departments.
Besides, computers don't suddenly disappear. Good IT persons or good consultants could huck a quick replacements out of off-the-shelf parts. Sure their use would require few times more manual work the full custom stuff the failed but still would save orders of magnitude of manpower versus hand calculators.

>I'll give you a Real World example. :-).
>
>I worked for Catalina Sportwear and Swimwear. Due to nepotism and other issues
>their 'management' didn't really understand the business, so IT actually monitored
>the transactions and corrected them. Those of us doing the monitoring quit due to some stupid management tricks.
>
>Well, the guys doing the transactions messed up on forecasting, because they weren't
>paying attention to what the order processing reports were saying. So, they produced
>all the wrong items - which then didn't sell. Which then caused the company to
>go bankrupt. Their 'season' was 4 months long (being a garment manufacturer), so
>it only took that long to destroy the business. They discovered the problem in
>only a couple of months (took that long for someone to recognize a problem, and
>then identify the cause), but they had spent so much on raw materials they couldn't
>use (nobody was buying those garments), they ended up being bought by Speedo.
>
>That's a true story that happened back in the early 1990s. I had quit, but still
>talked to some of the IT guys that stuck around. The company survived the initial
>screw up, but was in such poor shape they were sold 18 months later. It wasn't
>a failure of the system that did it - but it *was* a mission-critical application screw-up that caused their demise.
>
>If, for example, their computer went belly up, in one week they would have lost
>millions of dollars in orders because they would be late (remember - seasons only
>last a short time - you miss the window, you lose the sale). And, they don't produce
>the same styles year after year, so any garments unsold this season are essentially unsellable.
>
>That is 'mission critical'.
>

First, your story tells us about the business that didn't fill my first condition - to be worth its salt.

Second, what's new - people can screw things up. It's easy, because we tend to trust non trusty people. The similar screw ups with computers are less likely because:
1. Like with people, we tend to trust computer programs after seeing them delivering correct results several times. But unlike people, computer programs that delivered correct results several times are indeed likely to continue doing so.
2. Computer mistakes tend to be more obvious the human mistakes.
3. Computers don't fool you intentionally.

>Engineers talking about mission-critical apps is like marketing people talking
>about the design of circuits. They may know the buzzwords, but it's obvious they've
>actually never been involved with it. (grin).
>

Except that a common sense is no help in circuit design. Hopefully, in business management and related IT common sense is still applicable.


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                                    sufficiently intimate with the OSMichael S2009/02/26 06:29 AM
                                      sufficiently intimate with the OSanon2009/02/27 01:01 AM
                                      sufficiently intimate with the OSHoward Chu2009/02/27 01:37 AM
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  Tukwila Update - article onlineVincent Diepeveen2009/02/05 09:11 AM
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