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by: Bernard Teo

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Bernard Teo
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Thu 25 Mar 2004

Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea

Category : Commentary/IT.txt

Singapore is trying to get more people out of the public sector and into the private sector as entrepreneurs. But we've been doing this (dare we call ourselves entrepreneurs) for ten years and wondering, lately, if the smart ones are not the ones who stayed put (on their Herman Miller chairs).

But then I read this article by Robert X. Cringely, "A Lose-Lose Situation - Sometimes IT Integration Just Isn't Worth the Trouble", and I'm reminded of just when and why we decided we wanted no part of that scene, anymore.

Apple has a web page about Macs in business and the stories there pretty much describe where we're heading and what we want to help make happen - e.g., "My decision to go with Mac was based on two key criteria - the quality of the user experience, and reliability. The technology had to be transparent, intuitive, easy to use. So my staff and I would be happy and motivated and productive while using it."

But all you have to do is read one article and you'll realise why Macs are such a hard sell with IT departments - "I'd worked with PCs at prior practices, and I knew they required a lot of IT support. And I didn't want to pay somebody a whole bunch of money to set up and administer a PC network, to worry about constant server patches and updates, port configuration and reconfiguration. With the Mac, I basically did it myself. I don't have an IT support contract, because I just don't need one. The beauty of a Mac network is that it pretty much configures itself! And that saves me thousands of dollars a year easily.

"Finally, I wanted my staff to be as comfortable as possible using the technology. I didn't want to spend a whole lot of time training. With Mac, I trained my entire office staff myself. It took no time at all, because everything's just so intuitive. Click here, click there, and they were all very confident about using the Mac - even my previously technophobic nurse."

I'm wondering how I'm going to make any money, myself.

But, another story. I went with my friend, Ronnie, of Tarawerkz, a longtime Mac consultant and 4th Dimension developer, to the department in charge of Healthcare Computerisation here - he helped a doctor build a 4D-based patient records management system and now another hospital wants to use it. The catch is : he has to get past the IT Department. So, in the meeting, there are a couple of Information Architects (whatever that means), a Database Administrator, a Security "Expert", and a Network "Expert", and they're all grilling him on porting all these to Oracle (the favoured platform), conformance to their IS architecture, producing specifications, schemas, and data flow diagrams. They're doing what is called "due dilligence".

Poor guy. There's very little money in it, and all this work before he's even awarded the job. In the middle of helping him explain how 4D could work with Oracle and Microsoft's Active Directory, my mind drifts and I see that all these guys don't need to care how long this takes because they're all on salary. They're walking all over this one guy's work but that guy is the only one in the whole room who's created anything of value - he's after all the guy who's built something that has worked, and that another hospital wants to use.

It's like in American Idol. If being the judge pays so well, and you get to be nasty and condescending, and get paid well too, then why don't everybody be the judge? Everytime this happens, I'm thinking two words - Ayn Rand. Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead. Here's to John Galt and Howard Roark.

Posted at 7:05AM UTC | permalink

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