Bruce F. Webster: MIS Can Fight

By Bruce F. Webster  |  Posted 2008-06-26 Print this article Print

Any one of three groups can kill your technology project before it gets started or make it fail after the fact: executives, management information systems and end users.

The second group, MIS, may lack the economic power of the executives, but they can certainly put up a stiff fight against the development and deployment of a new IT system. Production support for the new system will likely come out of their budget and staff, so unless they see real advantages from the new system—as well as a commensurate increase in their budget and staff—they’re not going to be very happy about it.

You may assume that they’ll be happy to replace the old system (if one is being replaced), but you might wrong. The old system is likely very stable, or at the very least, it’s a well-known and well-documented system. And MIS probably has a few people who are very good at maintaining it.

By contrast, your new system is an unknown quantity. If it has just been developed—internally or by an outside firm—it probably has far more defects than the old system, many of which have not yet been detected. Interfaces with other internal systems will have to be set up and debugged. Both the new and the old system may have to run in parallel for a while, both as a safeguard against problems and as a way of ensuring that the new system gives identical (or more correct) answers than the old system.

The new system may also have a ripple effect in the organization’s information systems. It may require upgrades or changes to existing hardware, operating systems, and other custom and commercial systems currently in use. It may also call for wholesale conversion of existing databases and files, which can be a long, tedious, and error-prone process itself.

Webster is Principal and Founder at at Bruce F. Webster & Associates LLC. He works with organizations to help them evaluate troubled or failed information technology (IT) projects, or to assess IT systems and products for possible investment/acquisition. He has also worked in several dozen legal cases as a consultant and as a testifying expert, both in the United States and Japan.

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