Successful IT Operations

Bill Vass, CIO of Sun Microsystems took some time to relate 10 essentials for successful IT operations. The list appeared in the October 1, 2005 issue of CIO Magazine. Here they are.

  1. Open systems succeed.
  2. Proprietary systems fail in the long run.
  3. Separate logical layers.
  4. Standards matter.
  5. What's old is new again.
  6. Technology is not a problem.
  7. Know your estimation factor.
  8. You manage what you measure.
  9. Don't let the best be the enemy of the better.
  10. Nothing in life is easy.

Rules 1 and 2 should've been obvious coming from the top-ranks of Sun. Rules 3 and 4 are pretty much accepted truths in the software industry. Rule 5 is just a tip to recognize that things in the IT world are cyclical. Rule 6 relates that the toughest part for many IT projects is getting people to embrace technology.

Rule 7 is one that many project managers work on throughout their careers, but probably keep hidden from clients. It's always been difficult to explain the concept of an estimation factor when the person you're explaining it to has never managed an IT project. My experience has been that a factor of 1.5 is the minimum one should apply to estimates. Anything less and you're likely being too optimistic.

Rule 8 is one that comes up all the time with many of business groups I work for. They want to measure everything and anything. And yet, when the measurements come in, there are no actions taken. So why go through the trouble of measuring?

If you've ever worked with good software developers you've encountered rule 9. It seems to a developer's nature to look for the absolute best solution possible even if that search is going to take more time than is available for the entire project. It's important to recognize when this is happening and reel in the effort so that you can achieve the perceived business value of the project before the opportunity passes.

Rule 10 is clearly meant to be a little tongue-in-cheek, but it still has some merit. Another cliche that more accurately catches the concept is hope for the best, expect the worst.

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