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6 February 2007

IT's top five hot topics

By Andrew Clifford

The top five hot topics in IT are: systems integration, databases, IT governance, cost reduction, and delegating work to IT. At least that's what my readers think.

This is the 100th Minimal IT Newsletter. Here are the five most popular newsletters, according to my readers.

Starting at number 5, Everyday skills - delegation, definition and instruction, describes how you can treat your computer system as a member of your team, and delegate work to it. Although it will be quick and accurate, it is very stupid so you have to give it really good instructions, and don't expect it to make any important decisions for you.

Moving on to number 4, Six ways to cut costs, describes what you can do to cut costs, over and above managing efficiently and getting a good price. Two of them, agile methods and using standards, are well known. But you can also benefit from clarifying the structure of IT, aligning IT structures to organisation structures, looking more simply at the value IT can bring, and realising that the IT department is there to buy IT, not sell it.

Number 3, What is IT governance? describes how governance is a mix of control, co-ordination, measurement, compliance, justification, accountability, and connecting with stakeholders. Most governance looks at spending, at projects, or at service delivery. By applying the same mix of governance activities to IT systems themselves, we can start to tackle many of the persistent problems in IT. This introduces the whole area of system governance, about which I have written frequently.

At number 2, Shared database? I wouldn't dream of it, questions the idea of trying to build a single, shared, database across the whole organisation. Although it makes sense to have a consistent logical view of data, trying to build a single shared database is an unrealistic and ineffective architecture that makes change hard and undermines effective ownership.

And the leader, at number 1, is the series on Minimal integration. This recommends an approach to systems integration that keeps systems very cleanly separated, with very clearly defined interfaces. Use XML, and standardise on a small number of effective data transfer policies. Don't get carried away with tools, but concentrate on implementing effective standards. Use simple, informal documentation. Keep integration code away from business logic. Never believe that package vendors know how to do integration for you; always expect to do it yourself.

If you want to see everything, a list of all 100 newsletters is available on the Minimal IT newsletter index.

When I started, I could not imagine that there was enough material for 100 newsletters. But now I am convinced there is much more that we can think about and try. Maybe it is just because I am tuned in to it, but I see more and more people moving in the same direction. It is a quiet revolution, but slowly IT is moving away from the excesses of the past, to a smaller, simpler, cheaper, and more effective future.

Next: I love Vista, I hate Vista


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