Hello and welcome to the new site. My name is Julian Browne and I work in the software industry, or rather I work for businesses that commonly say things like “we’re not a software company” (to justify why they spend millions with large consultancies and on large software packages) when it’s abundantly clear that their commercial livelihood depends on the success of the software that they run.
I work mostly in software architecture, a role I usually feel the need to apologise for because it’s done so badly in so many organisations. My background is in operations - I was a Unix performance consultant early in my career, then went into development, and then to architecture. I tried management but discovered it’s not really my thing. At least not at any scale. Although the basics of good software stay the same, packages and languages move on apace, and taking a management job is the best way to slip completely out of the zone of competence.
I left my last proper management job in 2007, taking some time off to get better acquainted with Ruby, Lisp, and Functional Programming generally. It also felt like a good time to explore some ideas and say some things I felt needed to be said about why IT has seemingly self-destructed in the last ten or fifteen years, hence this blog.
I love software and what it can do, and daily still have that they-pay-me-for-this? sense about it. But I also know it’s hard not to feel worn down by the armies of the incompetent who don’t get it. Over the years the field of information technology has become more and more populated with unskilled people drawn to the higher salaries and the power trip that comes with artificial complexity. Service consultancies have exploited the fears of corporate leaders to persuade them that they can no longer manage their own IT.
Boards of directors see IT as something other and separate to the economic business rather than woven within it.
And none of this need be the case. Modern businesses are software. A handful of people can work wonders with very little budget. The world is full of great cheap and free software. I’m not saying it’s easy. I’m saying that with an average team and a good attitude most of the inertia we experience everyday disappears.
Big consultancies are not a necessary evil, they are an unnecessary evil.
What’s more I think times are changing. I think the example set by some modern internet businesses has shown that big budgets aren’t necessary. I think it’s clearer than ever that enterprise software packages do nothing but harm. Large ERP and CRM projects that supposedly use out-of-the-box functionality end up hiring more developers than bespoke projects. They customise the “out-of-the-box” product until it’s indistinguishable from a bespoke build (though to be fair it does then have a level of complexity commensurate with its cost). The argument that consultancies bring useful industry experience to bear is patently false, unless you really need experience of chaotic failure where no lessons were actually learned.
I don’t see this change happening quickly because the IT field (vendors and customers) is now stacked with people who have a vested interest in making sure none of this gets out. But it will come, because sluggish corporations will either make the change or go to the wall, kicked out of the marketplace by five developers in a bedroom who’ve never heard of Programme Management.
This is such a beautiful field to work in. So few understand just how beautiful, and fewer still see the beauty that could be.
If you’ve really got nothing better to do you can join me on Twitter or contact me using the link above.
This site used to run on a bespoke Rails app I’d written. But as I regularly preach about using the simplest, and least intrusive, technology possible to solve problems I threw it all away and now generate a static version of the site using Jekyll. That meant I could stop writing code to address already well-solved problems and ditch the database, meaning the site can run anywhere there’s an HTTP server. Jekyll supports various flavours of markdown and can still create ‘dynamic’ pages for searching etc.
All content on this site is copyleft - meaning you can use it for whatever purpose you feel like as long as it’s suitably attributed and you apply the same rule to whatever content you create with it.