% fortune -ae paul murphy

Dueling punchlines: more effects as causes?

Last week Britain's Computerweekly ran a story about the impact their version of Sarbanes-Oxley's is likely to have:

Companies Act 2006 will bring IT closer to business

The better news, however, is that senior IT directors say they are more confident both about business-IT alignment and the strength of professionalism than in the recent past. The Computer Weekly CIO Confidence Index for 2007 shows that most UK IT leaders (94%) think communication between IT and the business is improving, up from 86% in 2006. The survey also shows an increase of 10% among those who "agree strongly" that the board understands the importance of IT to the business.

But perhaps the most significant finding is that IT management is perceived to have become more professional - moving closer to the status of lawyers or accountants. This is surely a stronger footing than lusting after a generalist business executive status that misguidedly belittles valuable technical expertise.

Wow! professional status - that's so cool, and I'll bet we get to wear suits and everything. But, while the people at COmputerweekly may wear tee shirts the results on professionalism are already in for others: this time quoting from the register:

Outsourcing overruns cost UK taxpayers 9bn

Research by the European Services Strategy Unit shows that 105 outsourced public sector ICT contracts have significant cost overruns, delays and terminations.

The unit examined large outsourcing contracts, PPPs, PFIs and strategic service delivery partnerships in central government, the health service, local authorities, public bodies and agencies over the last 10 years.

It found that cost overruns amounted to 9bn for the 105 projects, with an average percentage cost overrun of 30.5 per cent. It also revealed that 30 per cent of contracts were terminated and more than half (57 per cent) had cost overruns .

The main ICT com anies with contract cost overruns, delays and terminations, according to the research are EDS (13 contracts); Liberata (eight contracts); Fujitsu and IBM (six each); Accenture, Atos Origin, Capita, ITNet (now Serco) and Siemens (five each) and BT (four).

On the surface what we have here are more effects preceding causes, but the unhappy truth is that the more controls and auditors you bring into a creative process like software development, the worse the results are. Thus the American experience with SOX has been that raising overheads while putting "the overheads" themselves organizationally over the heads of those contributing IT value, generally achieves significant decreases in both IT productivity and the overall organizational willingness to innovate.


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.