Here at CIO magazine, we love writing about best practices. That’s mostly because, we believe, if we give our readership enough practical takeaways and good ideas from each story—told from the perspective of fellow IT execs—then CIOs and IT practitioners will be able to take those specific concepts and put them into use in their organizations.
Makes sense. The business world rests on a foundation of case studies of companies doing things right. Like rearing children, it’s how we “model” good behavior.
But that got me thinking: What about “worst practices”? Meaning negative modeling, the exact opposite of what CIOs should be doing. We never really write specifically about worst practices. Sure, we talk about them in failure stories (blown ERP implementations, change management disasters, faulty software rollouts), but we never call them out directly and say, “THIS IS A VERY BAD IDEA!” or “WHATEVER YOU DO, DON’T DO THIS!”
The truth is, we all do things that are bad for us. Speeding down the highway, talking on the cell phone, kids in the backseat. Consuming too much junk food as you’re trying to lose a few pounds. Telling white lies to our spouses—for their sake. At the time, they probably seem like the best course of action, but from a more studied perspective surely would fall into a list of “worst” practices. Back in the business world, just look at the financial and accounting disasters and security slip-ups that seem to pop up continually. Worst practices are everywhere:
Worst Practice No. 1: Should we cook the books to inflate our earnings? Great idea! No one will ever catch us!
Worst Practice No. 2: How about turning off those security features on all the executives’ BlackBerrys? Perfect!
Worst Practice No. 3: I know, let’s filch millions from the company’s coffers and give our spouse a rockin’ birthday party? A party all will remember!
The list seems to grow every day.
One argument against devoting time and energy to collecting a list of worst practices, however, is that worst practices are just so gosh-darn obvious. No right-minded IT professional would need a reminder that, for example, she shouldn’t ignore user input when implementing a new enterprisewide system. Right? But sometimes these worst practices are more subtle, more deceptively alluring. After all, if every CIO knows what (and what not) to do, then why do we have legions of technology consultants, business gurus and systems integrators, eager to take CIOs’ money in exchange for advice on how to avoid disastrous IT situations?
So what I’d like from you are the worst practices from IT shops you’ve worked in over the years. I’d love to hear the true stories of IT stupidity, management incompetence and business-IT misalignment. Even those practices that looked like a good idea at the start. For your own safety, your responses can be completely anonymous and company names can be omitted. If you’re more daring, include your name and company. You can post them on this site for all to see, or you can e-mail them to me, in private, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Just give me real events that had disastrous effects on that IT organization, and that, looking back, were a worst practice. I’ll take them all, filter them, and we’ll publish them in an issue that will open everyone’s eyes to the World’s Worst IT Practices.
Thomas Wailgum is a staff writer for CIO magazine.