Why do you hire professionals?

Warning:  What follows is a rant from the grumpy, old curmudgeon.  If hard truths make you squirm then you should go elsewhere …


I was out walking The Beagle this morning (Samantha, if you must know) and I passed a car from an IT firm from another town.  Their tagline was “Taking the Mystery out of IT”.  Honestly, my blood pressure spiked at seeing that.  I mean you don’t see other professional segments making similar claims … “CPA, we take the mystery out of accounting” or “Aeronautical engineers, we take the mystery out of aircraft manufacturing” or “Professional plumbers, we take the mystery out of drainage”.  Geez. What in the hell is it about IT that makes everyone treat it as if we are all alchemists conjuring formulas to transmute lead into gold while we all seek the Philosopher’s Stone?  I suppose we (the IT pro’s) have to carry a certain amount of the blame as we have, over the years, developed our own geek culture that sometimes makes us look like a bunch of wizards casting spells

but that is really no different from other professional groups if you are looking in from the outside.  Every profession has its own “magic” that they perform but it is only magic because we who are NOT of that profession don’t necessarily understand the nuts an bolts that underpin the profession.

And, at the same time, what is it that gives everyone the right to tell us how to do our jobs??  After all, IT is a profession, just like any other.  Most other professional groups just go about their business doing what they are trained to do and the consumers of the services they provide place their trust in the pro’s training and knowledge.  But for some mystical reason, everyone and their grandmother thinks they know how to do what we IT pro’s do AND they can do it cheaper!  I mean really; if you hired I.M. Pei to design a news skyscraper for you would you tell him (and his people) how to do his job?  Then why in hell do you insist in telling me how to do mine??  All businesses hire “professionals” to perform key tasks – accountants, engineers, MBA’s, production experts, human resources professionals, the list is endless – and for the most part no one talks about the “mysteries” involved in their individual areas of responsibility.  In fact, the whole shebang relies one everyone tacitly agreeing that everyone else knows what they are doing inside their particular task or professional grouping.  The engineer designing a widget doesn’t normally concern himself about how the accountant does their job (or vice versa) as everyone has a defined role to play.  But make it an IT pro performing a task and everyone has an opinion (and a better way to do it, it seems).

So, back to my original point.  There is no mystery to IT just as there is no mystery to building airplanes.  There IS one hell of a lot of knowledge required and procedures to be followed to build an airplane and the same can be said of anything IT.  It is knowing how to do something, particularly knowing how to do something right and following all the necessary procedures that are required to make it so that defines a professional in any field of endeavour.  The boys designing and building the airplane damn well better do it correctly lest the wings fall off at 40,000 feet and it’s a sure bet the accountant won’t be telling them how to design the wing spars.  It’s no different with IT; there is skill and knowledge and procedure required to design, build and implement any given system.  And, like the airplane build, there is also a cost involved to do it correctly so that the end product will run for a long time and produce a proper ROI for the accountants. 

In the airplane build, people outside of the professional group involved in the design and build (engineers, designers, fabricators, assemblers, etc) can’t tell the pro’s how to do their job because they don’t have the skills, knowledge or training to be able to do so.  In fact, it’s a fair bet that people outside of that professional group wouldn’t  tell the pro’s what to do, it wouldn’t even cross their minds.  But substitute “system design/build” for “airplane design/build” and everyone suddenly everyone has a opinion and a friend of their wife’s cousin that can do the job better and cheaper.  And those same people then wail and gnash their teeth when said friend of wife’s cousin screws it all up and the fix becomes way more expensive than the cost would have been to do it right in the first place.  (Hmmmm, kind of a life lesson there don’t you think?????)

So, once and for all, let me make this crystal clear:  IT is NOT a mystery.  There is no “magic” involved.  We don’t sacrifice goats and chant incantations over bubbling cauldrons in order to make a system work.  We are pro’s, we work hard to learn our craft and we apply our knowledge and skills and do our best to give you systems that work.  If we do our jobs well, even brilliantly, the end result can be sublime but that is also true of any other profession.  So why not just let us do our jobs and get on with it?


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