by February 22, 2006 0 comments

I am talking in the
context of enterprise IT systems.

My concept of systems design starts from my training as a
civil engineer. If I were to take the example of a building, it takes a team
with differing skills to give it shape and structure. We need structural
engineers and architects, environmental engineers and soil engineers and many
more specialties to do full justice to the design and construction of a large
building. Not only that, the building also needs to connect to public systems
like the electricity grid and sewerage systems, which needs other specialties to
chip in. While the basic qualification of all of these specialties starts off as
the same, there is indeed specialized knowledge that talks the same language,
for the building is to be successfully completed.

When designing most enterprise systems, we seem to give
this basic principle a quick burial and all of us become jacks-of-all-trades,
apparently capable of magic in everything that we do.

In most mid to large organizations, it is the same set of
people, often with the same skill set ,that designs and deploys all their It
systems. Worse still, many organisations accept systems specifications and
designs given by sales men from vendors, without even checking whether the
design is done by a qualified and experienced person. Given that the vendors
keep rotating their sales men, we have ERP experts overnight becoming expert
storage system designers and Server salesmen suddenly sizing design tools
requirements! Why is it that we treat IT design and deployment as free for all,
not requiring specific domain expertise? Why is it that we are content to get
our solutions designed mostly by sales men?

Is it because of a paucity of trained manpower?

For a country that offers IT consultancy to the rest of the
world, this can hardly be true. Historically, the Indian IT user has been
exposed more to salesmen our exposure to domain experts and consultants is much
lesser. Fact is that we have traditionally accepted the salesman as the general
physician and know all for all our IT woes and needs. There is also that little
matter of costs. Bringing in an expert is going to cost that much more in
developing the solution. And of course, we discount the savings in terms of
equipment, time and effort, that can accrue from having someone who is an expert
do the design and implementation. It is high time that we stopped using
rule-of-thumb designs and started using the appropriate skills in designing and
deploying our IT systems. And finally, what is it that converts a temporary iron
structure into the world famous Eiffel tower? What is it that transforms a
supposedly simple structure that was built to commemorate an exhibition, into a
landmark of enduring value? The difference is the vision of Gustave Eiffel, the
contractor whose name has been immortalized by the edifice he built to transcend
time and not to just stand guard at the exhibition.

So, my final question to you is what is the role you are
playing in designing your IT infrastructure? Is it a role you are delegating to
the L3 vendor or are you bringing in the vision that can make a convert a common
structure into one of lasting value?

Krishna Kumar, Editor

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