Harry Potter and the IT monsters

They haven’t announced the title of the next Harry Potter book yet, so I thought I’d start the ball rolling with my own suggestion.

Anybody who has even a passing familiarity a child between the ages of seven and 12 will have come across the young Mr. Potter and the three Potter bestsellers by now. For those unfortunate souls who haven’t had the pleasure, here’s the quick 411: Harry is a wizard in training, an all around good guy, a second-year student at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry (at least he is in the second book – my eight year old is waiting impatiently for me to catch up to her), and a can-always-be-counted-on-to-get-rid-of-the-bad-guys-and-evil-things kind of fellow.

So what in the name of Hagrid (read HP – you’ll understand) has this got to do with IT? Here’s the deal: there are days when I wish I could enlist Harry’s help in ridding our business of certain IT types that do all of us a disservice.

Just like the Lord High Executioner in the Mikado, I too have a little list: a list of the folks I’m sure Harry would do something terrible/wonderful to with his considerable wizarding powers.

The programmers who won’t do maintenance. This is the insufferable creature who believes that maintaining code once it’s in production is beneath him or her, even if he/she actually wrote the code. In my fervid imagination, I choose to believe that Harry operates under the philosophy that we should all be prepared to eat what we kill. I’m sure he’d turn these obnoxious code jockeys into common garden slugs.

The IT types who “go native.” Harry is, I imagine, all in favour of IT professionals who empathize with the needs of their clients, who put the needs of their customers first, who strive to remind the rest of us that the systems we build only exist to achieve underlying business or organizational purposes. That being said, Harry’s as suspicious as I am of those who carry this empathy thing too far, who believe that the client is right even when the client is hugely wrong, who believe in beating the rest of the IT professionals in their organization over the head with their “client first” mantra, even when the client is an unrepentant bonehead. Harry agrees, I imagine, that these terrible people have taken their affection for and affiliation with their customers so far that they’ve “gone native.” Harry, I’m sure, would turn them all into the toads that they truly deserve to be.

The project manager heroes. I’d imagine that Harry would really hate these ones, just like I do. They’re the types that work with a team to carefully draw up a project schedule, a project budget and a specifically articulated set of deliverables, only to cave under the slightest pressure from management. “We’re sure you can do it six months faster and for $2 million less than what’s in your plan,” management will say. Instead of reminding said management that nothing comes for free, these project managers, who certainly aren’t the brightest crayons in the box, say things like “Yuk yuk [I imagine they sound like Goofy here], sure we can do that boss! Whatever you say!” In cutting cost or schedule without an equal and offsetting adjustment in project duration (Fewer resources? It’ll take longer), cost (Cut the budget? You’ll get less), or performance (Faster for less? Quality will really suffer) these bright sparks are either extreme sycophants or very dense. I expect that Harry wouldn’t care for them either way. In fact, I’m sure he want to turn them into yaks. That or make them spend the rest of their miserable lives debugging the Cobol that I used to write in the early ’80s.

That Harry Potter, he’d fix ’em all. Harry’s not even old enough to vote, but don’t you think he sounds like he’d be a more effective IT manager than most of us are with our years of experience?

While we’re on the subject, has anyone out there got suggestions about the kind of IT types you’d like to see Harry do a number on? E-mail me and let me know what you think.

Hanley is an IS professional in Calgary. He can be reached at [email protected].

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