Living by the rules

Imagine it’s 1964, and you’ve accepted a new position in a small town with a population of roughly 700 people. The town badly needs someone with your skills, and such people are hard to come by.

You take the job and enjoy the life the town has to offer. But before long the local economy is booming, and soon more and more people follow in your footsteps. The population trickle becomes a stream, and quickly becomes a flood. Now, 40 years later, the bucolic village of several hundred is home to more than 500,000.

Problem is, the local infrastructure has barely been able to keep up, and officials at what is now a full-blown city have not done a good job of servicing demands of such a vibrant, fast-growing locale.

That, in a nutshell say experts, is exactly what has happened to the town that is the Canadian IT industry. Like a poorly governed community, the industry today lacks common guiding principles, and employs a mish-mash of people with often widely varying credentials.

On one hand, such growth can hardly be viewed in negative terms, but rapid, unplanned expansion does come with its share of problems, said Paul Swinwood, president of the Ottawa-based Software Human Resources Council (SHRC), a non-profit organization dedicated to tracking and assisting the Canadian software industry. Rapid expansion of information technology paved the way for ever tightening project deadlines. At the same time, companies came to rely on computing systems to provide them with a competitive edge, real or perceived, Managers sought employees without any independent means to verify backgrounds, or to check qualifications. This approach to hiring, say some experts, is one of the many factors that have earned the IT industry a dubious reputation of professionals who rarely completing projects on time or on budget.

In fact, the track record of project failures — so common that it’s become clich

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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