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Overloading Software Package Schema is a Bad Idea

People seem to think that because a system is in place it should be used for something, anything. Think before implementing. It could be a BAD IDEA. Use a software package for what it is intended for, not just because it is there.

An Example of a Descent into Madness

A large privately held grain company had an HP Openmail system networked across six continents. This was a bear to administer already, but then some dingbat came up with the idea that they should use the email database to track all software licenses across the entire company. The idea was that this email thing was company wide, lets use it for "company wide" software license tracking. Get it?

By the time I got involved 40% of the email database records were software license related, not email related. The system replicated entries across most servers and the mail data model entities and attributes had been overloaded with so many meanings that it was a major project to clean data, update the software to a new version or just administer an email address for a new employee. A 12 hour process to track and update the software licenses was kicked off once a week hitting the mail hosts with a major resource hog and delaying company email. About a hundred people administered the system and administered it badly.

I thought this software license overload on the mail schema was a BAD IDEA. But it was too late to have any influence, it was like telling the naked emperor about his zipper selection during the big parade down Main Street. Too many managers and toadying contractors had careers invested in the huge empire surrounding the badly working system. There is even a Dilbert cartoon about the pointy hair boss suggesting an accounting system over the email database that someone posted on the bulliten board. I left for a better situation, sometimes cutting and running is the best policy.

Think About the Consequences

So speak up right away the next time someone says, "Let's use the employee timecard system to track the movement of outside contract security people even though they are not paid using that system." (Real example of an idea that was stopped in time!) Say it is a BAD IDEA to fill hourly worker and cost data with unrelated information about contract security guard donut breaks. You may have kept your own check coming on time in the mail.

But remember, there are innovative and new uses for software that are a success, just think through the consequences.