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If It Ain't Broke, Don't Fix It

We really hate that phrase. Things are “broke” all the time. If an application isn’t meeting the needs of the users then by definition it’s “broke.” If it needs a maintenance change, it’s “broke.” It seems to us that far too often this mantra is just used as an excuse not to do anything. It’s used as justification for maintaining the status quo—whether that be in a program, choice of programming language, organization or whatever. We know from experience that many of you would say that you need to keep your job and bucking the system isn’t a good way to guarantee that. We’re just not so sure of that—unless you plan to retire in 12 months or so. Case in point: We recently encountered a programmer who obviously adopted this philosophy as his mantra, as indeed had the other seven or eight programmers in the shop. Which may explain why there are now only two (yes, two) programmers in the shop. After all, they weren’t doing anything new—so the company came to view them as not providing sufficient value.

Until today, we’ve never been able to come up with a memorable expression we could use as a replacement mantra for “If it ain’t broke.” Now we have one: “No change, no change.” We know that back-when this was the title of an album and song by The Cars’ Elliot Easton. But that wasn’t where we heard it, appropriate as the lyrics may be. We heard it today in a lecture on a subject completely unrelated to computers. Using this as your mantra is, in our opinion, far more likely to guarantee the future of your IBM i system than the “Ain’t Broke” philosophy ever could. We’re not advocating change purely for the sake of change. But we’ve also found that making no change means things never get better. So eventually, in order to improve, change is inevitable. And if we have no desire to improve, then maybe we are broken.

This is a debate we’ve had many times when clients ask us to prove that reworking their application as a modular, modern set of components will save them money/make them more flexible/make things run faster/etc. The point we usually make is that there’s no such guarantee. But there are two things we can tell them.

  1. Nobody we know who has ever taken that leap-of-faith has ever regretted it. Many have regretted the jump to Oracle, SAP, .NET, flavor-of-the-month. But none have regretted making the investment to modernize their RPG applications.
  2. A popular definition of insanity is to keep doing the same thing over and over and expect the results to be different. Isn’t that the very definition of the “Ain’t Broke” approach?

So let’s consign “Ain’t Broke” to the garbage can of history, and start to focus on a mantra that might get us somewhere—NO CHANGE, NO CHANGE!

Jon Paris is a technical editor with IBM Systems Magazine and co-owner of Partner400.

Susan Gantner is a technical editor with IBM Systems Magazine and co-owner of Partner400.



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