Monday, May 18, 2009

Just the facts, not the opinions

A common IT discourse:

Person A: "X is better than Y"
Person B: "Why is it?"

A: Well you can develop twice as fast in X than Y
B: Are you sure?

A: Absolutely
B: But we use Y and we've measured a 40% increase in productivity over the last three years

A: Well X will double that productivity
B: Could you show me the study that shows that?

A: Look at these client references
B: But these people are building a very specific application and are also clearly idiots if they couldn't get Y to do that

A: Ahh but it was faster than Y
B: But we are not idiots

A: X is better than Y

And so the discussion goes on. Its one I've had over and over again with both proponents of multiple languages and vendors... often with vendors. What marks these out is that most of the time there is almost zero actual factual data to back up the assertion, its simply that its an assertion.

The other problem is that most companies don't capture proper metrics and so aren't able to make a reasonable decision. They will often claim a productivity increase when the business feels that IT is moving slower, with no metrics to measure it becomes impossible to actually determine if IT is getting better or not.

The reason this leapt into my head is because last night I was watching "The Incredible Human Journey: Asia" in which the Chinese government and a few of their scientists were pushing, and indeed educate the populace through-out their school years, that the Chinese are "special" and evolved independently from everyone else on planet earth. Now I was a bit suspicious of the "all the bones were lost" argument but the point was that arguing around bone fragments was pretty much purely opinion, potentially educated opinion but still just opinion.

Then in came the metrics, which in this type of biology means genetics, and a scientist who set out to prove the Chinese hypothesis, and low and behold the results came back that just like everyone else on planet earth the Chinese are African too.

The point here was that there has been an argument around different points of a subject and arguing which was best, it is only however with the advent of clear metrics that it has been possible to close it down and prove that the out of Africa theory is the right one.

The lesson for IT is clear, we need metrics and clarity if we are going to improve. Without those metrics it is impossible to say when IT is improving and when it just looks like it is or is just claimed that it is.

So how do you measure your IT?

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