Day-job: "IT's Hidden Face - Everything you always wanted to know about Information Technology. A look behind the scenes" by Claude Roeltgen

IT's hidden face: Everything you always wanted to know about Information Technology. A look behind the scenes - Claude Roeltgen, Jean-Claude Juncker, Andreas Resch, Mike O'Dell

Published 2006 (German Edition: “Eine Million oder ein Jahr: Hinter den Kulissen der IT - ein Insider berichtet”)

 

Published 2009 (English version; the one I’ve read and commented on)

 

“Plug it in, switch it on, and then it has to work!”

 

With this ominous statement Jean-Claude Juncker opens his foreword. This quote give us the proper perspective of our run-of-the-mill PC user. If they only knew what happens behind the scenes…

 

Roeltgen tackled the usual IT conundrum: how can we state the so-called IT “problem” without being facile? He was able to do it in a very thorough manner, stating the case for the most urgent and important problems we are still facing today.

 

I’ve been working on IT since leaving college 22 years ago. My professional career has been in several IT areas: teaching, programming, networking, digital commutation systems, System Administration, ITIL, SOX, Cobit, Auditing, Project Management, Service Management, etc. I’ve experienced first-hand everything Roeltgen talks about in his book. I quite agree with him that from an Application Development point-of-view the so-called interfaces between applications are our worst nightmare…Our lives IT-wise would be much simpler if the software producers were to agree on a common platform to communicate between applications. SOA may be the answer to prayers, but the Nirvana isn’t here yet. In German computer interfaces have a very interesting name: “Schnittstellen”, which roughly means “cut surfaces”. It reminds me of a sticking-plaster… It’s strange that a word to describe something so fundamental in IT has such a colourful name. It reveals that we are barely able to satisfy the user’s wish for more flexibility and compatibility.

 

What this books addresses is the proverbial question that everyone who has ever worked in IT had to ask one time or another: “Why is it possible to buy easily even the most complex and sophisticated products on the market, but one has to then to initiate with the IT in every case multi-million, year long, and most of all, risky projects? To make it short: “Why is everything so complicated in IT?”

 

Roeltgen tries to push the missing dialogue between users and the IT Crowd. He compares the purchase of a new computer system or the installation of new software with the exposure of species in an unknown system landscape, i.e., problems arise from the incompatibility of different systems. This applies most of all to enterprise strategies, the processing of data and its security, the system administration, the management and the control. IT is a field where programmers, users, Service Managers, and Project Managers get their wires crossed. Roeltgen take on the theme is not new. What is new is the way he goes about it. He analyzes, and gives improvement suggestions. Thank God he does not blame the user for the ubiquitous problems when we use computers. Instead he rightly lays all the blame upon the market.

 

The perception that IT resembles a jungle is quite apt. Whoever has already tried (and sometimes) failed to integrate new components or to remove them understands that what Roeltgen reports here is the absolute truth.

 

I didn’t find here solutions to my professional tasks. What I got from the book was a journey and an ironic view on systems and their dependencies.

 

Whether you work in IT or not, this book explains in a fun and very entertaining form what it means to work in IT. In brief and easy-to-read chapters everyone can get an understanding for the diverse areas in IT, like disaster recovery planning, IT security, IT compliance, projects, etc. 

 

Every PC user should read it, in order to understand that there’s a deep chasm between them and IT experts. The PC users don’t have the faintest idea on how IT really works, and how the experts work. Why is IT so expensive? Why it does take so long to bring a new IT project to an end? These questions are on everybody’s mind who has to deal with IT on a daily basis, but who knows IT only from the outside.

 

Being this a translation from the German edition, I found the English very stilted. An example:

 

What in fact are you doing the whole day long?”

 

I’d say “What in fact are you doing all day long?”, but maybe it’s just me.

 

Not only it's obviously suffering from translation issues, but also editing-wise it has a few typos and incoherencies.

 

NB: Maybe I’ll have to dig up the German version, read it, and see if it still holds water…