IT's seven dirty words

IT has its own set of seven dirty words. Try saying any one of these in polite IT company, and someone will hand you a bar of soap to wash your mouth out. My filthy seven:

1 Brittle. As in unreliable, easily broken, difficult to keep running; a wonderful choice when you want to dis a developer's skills. Not only do brittle apps rely on fragile, tightly coupled interdependencies, but they're a bear to bend to shifting business requirements.

2 One-off. Often quick and dirty, a solution meant to solve a specific problem. Sure, this type of project works just fine, but the technology developed can't be reused -- a real no-no for the forward-thinking enterprise. A one-off may stanch a stab wound, but you'll still bleed to death in the long run.

3 Legacy. A loaded word, often said with a sneer to denigrate all your old, still-functioning hardware and software. When said with appropriate scorn, it's a substitute for "dinosaur", and it insinuates that your in-place systems are just plain decrepit. More than any other of the dirty seven, "legacy" has a magic quality: it enables vendors to sell you loads of shiny, expensive new gear by uttering just a single word.

4 Opaque. Compare with "visibility" and "transparency", probably the two most praiseworthy entries in the IT/business lexicon. If a process is opaque, you can't see into it: it's a black box. And although black boxes may look great to end users, you don't want them in your operation because they're a nightmare to maintain.

5 Proprietary. See "one-off". The opposite of "open" or "standards-based", proprietary solutions can solve a problem very fast. But you'll have to live with (read: pay for) that solution forever. Or at least until you've been replaced.

6 Churn. Needless activity, change for the sake of change, all accompanied by wasted motion. Techies use the term to critique incapable management without saying "inept", "clueless", or "lousy" -- much in the way "nontrivial" has replaced the word "difficult". Flexible, open standards and technologies can put the hurt on churn.

7 Silo. By far the most loathsome word on the list because it incorporates all the worst qualities of the previous six. Silos are unconnected, non service-oriented apps, hardware, data, or processes trapped in their own world. Think "brittle", "opaque", "proprietary", "one-off", and "legacy", with a high likelihood to induce "churn". Silos will probably give you bad posture and gum disease as well.

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