Using the right tools can save money and grief

Count me in as a staunch supporter of diversification. Perhaps it’s my degree in molecular biology, or 20+ years working in the computer field – but diversity, whether “wet” or electronic, is vital to survival. Ken Hanley mentioned the risks of viruses and Trojans in his column (“Should we simplify or diversify?,” Feb. 22, page 16). But let’s not neglect simple evolution – were more companies to standardize on a single product internally, most would settle on the same brand as all the other companies.

Never mind that we all can guess which that would be, as one company grabs the lion’s share of the market, their need to improve their products and invest in R&D lessens.

Perhaps the best example is the ubiquity of a certain word processor. I know of few serious writers who use this software voluntarily.

There certainly are benefits to having a common tool (or more accurately, a common file format). Nevertheless, had the competition not been swept away, everyone would benefit from being able to chose from a selection of more powerful, more flexible (and less bug-ridden) writing tools.

Diversity is a good thing! In my “day job” I head the database group for a well-known high-tech firm. We support in mostly equal measure four mainstream DBMSs – IDMS (remember that one?), DB2 on a variety of platforms, Oracle, and MS-SQL.

Yes, training is a damned nuisance, but this is offset through several benefits. Each of these products has its own strengths and weaknesses: the philosophy of “the right tool for the right job” saves time and money. Equally important, not only does the variety keep my people from getting stale (and their careers get a boost), the different tactical skills they learn are often applicable on other platforms.

We have to support all four databases because we have no choice. My boss hates it, but I’ve grown to rather like it.

William Schleihauf, Pierrefonds, Que.

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