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The Top 10 Senior Management IT Mistakes

I read an article about the top thirteen things that make no sense in science starting with the placebo effect and ending with cold fusion. Well, you'd think listing 13 things that make no sense in IT would be easy, but I couldn't do it - damn that Occam's razor thing anyway!

What I can do, however, is list the top ten senior management IT behaviours that make no sense. The difference, of course is that "no sense" here doesn't mean the same thing it does in the science world. There, "no sense" means "can be demonstrated but is unexplained within existing theory," here "no sense" just means "often seen in life, but irrational or ill-informed."

So, bearing in mind that "senior management" means the typical members of an organisation's executive committee, what are the top ten mistakes?

  1. taking mass media magazines, or the guy on the next bar stool, seriously on IT issues;

  2. taking IT advice from their peers - i.e. people who share their social, cultural, educational, and operational limitations;

  3. failing to consider the conflict between multi-million dollar IT project proposals and their own certainty that their neighbour's teenager can produce a working organisational ERP/SCM package over the weekend - using a $200 Wintel PC.

  4. failing to distinguish numbers massaged on some guy's personal spreadsheet in accounting or business intelligence from reality;

  5. assuming that accountants know something of value about IT controls and operations;

  6. maintaining high school style social barriers between themselves and the nerds in IT;

  7. judging the IT person, not the IT result;

  8. pretending they don't need to understand how IT affects their business;

  9. pretending they understand how IT affects their business;

  10. delegating overall IT management responsibility to someone lower on the organisational totem pole.

Oddly, in all the writing about big failures like Enron and the rest of them, I haven't seen one article about the extent to which accounting failures ultimately traceable to systems management failures, facilitated the slide to fraud.

Paul Murphy wrote and published The Unix Guide to Defenestration. Murphy is a 25-year veteran of the I.T. consulting industry, specializing in Unix and Unix-related management issues.