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Shattering the Multitasking Myth
The Sept. 15, 2003, Reality Bytes column (“Why More Is Less”) really hit the nail on the head. What I am seeing is that multitasking in IT often causes a de-evolution back to the old days when the “superprogrammer” did everything. Architectural decisions and even business decisions start to be driven by what the superprogrammer wants simply because the organization cannot afford to make him unhappy (or doesn’t have any better alternatives). What a mess!
Technical Staff Member
Los Alamos National Laboratory
I have felt like I should be able to multitask more effectively, though I much prefer to work on one project at a time until it is complete. I’m glad to see that my instincts have been right on. Although as a psychologist who evaluates learning differences among individuals, I would admit that to some extent this capacity depends on the individual, as it does with most cognitive characteristics.
Kathi Morton, Psychologist
Respect and Dignity Go a Long Way
I enjoyed Publisher Gary Beach’s Oct. 1, 2003, column, “Beware of the Telephone.” There are two ways to really cause damage: one is by the phone, the other is through e-mail. Unfortunately, CEOs don’t know enough to put countermeasures in place until it is too late.
Some years ago, we had a talented IT employee in our HR department. He did a lot of good but at some point got mad, quit, changed all passwords and left viruses that would be activated at certain times. The vice president of HR was devastated and as a result implemented a forceful policy of having a security guard standing next to employees who were being fired or laid off. The policy left a really sour feeling with everyone.
During the past two years, we knew some employees would be laid off?some of them in my own IT organization. So I went to HR and specifically requested the policy not apply to them. Rather, they would leave voluntarily and without problems.
Needless to say, the vice president reiterated the need to “prevent” what had happened some years ago. I then proceeded to explain what could happen if a reasonably competent IT employee became angry at having to leave in such a way and used the phone and e-mail to destroy databases (specifically, payroll and human resources), cause large expenses in phone usage and so on. All of this could be done from outside the company and within an hour of having left. The vice president was speechless when I completed my presentation. The policy has been refined to not make people upset (and my people were let go without a guard), but the necessary security precautions are still being debated. Can you believe that?
Manufacturing Systems Project Manager
The Battle Rages On
The suggestion that end users should unite to define requirements, or define standards, is noble but probably not practical (“The Battle for Web Services,” Oct. 1, 2003). Economic reasons limit the capabilities of most large user organizations; for example, the U.S. government is a huge IT consumer but is hardly in a position to compete with Microsoft or IBM for technical know-how. So I predict that we will continue to muddle through. Web services will arrive in a messy, complex fashion that will cause undue suffering for programmers and excessive costs, which will nevertheless be accepted as the cost of doing business with IT. And the holy grail of interoperability will remain elusive.
Paul Arveson, Director
Balanced Scorecard Institute