Through the Looking Glass

Often times, when the business of Information Technology frustrates me, I look for inspiration in what may seem at first glance to be odd places. For instance, I think the Lewis Carroll “Alice in
Wonderland” books offer sage advice for our particular industry. I mean, how many times have you watched a salesman grin as he spoke and then expected him to simply disappear the way the Cheshire
Cat does?

Which Way Should We Go?

But perhaps that is a bad metaphor. The Cheshire Cat was actually a pretty smart cookie (no disrespect to salespeople intended)! Recall the passage where Alice comes to a fork in the road and first
meets the Cheshire Cat in a tree. She asks, “Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?” And the cat responds, “That depends a good deal on where you want to go.” Alice, in
typical end-user fashion, replies “It doesn’t much matter where.” Causing the cat to utter words that we should all take to heart — “Then it doesn’t matter which way you

Of course, you could follow Yogi Berra’s advice, instead. He said, “When you come to a fork in the road, take it!” But, then where would that leave you? Unfortunately, that seems about as
intelligent as some IT strategic planning sessions I’ve sat in on. The bottom line is that planning and understanding are both required and go hand in hand with one another. Those of us who
practice the discipline of data management and administration understand the rigor of planning; but we also understand the benefits that can accrue!

If you have no plan for where you want to go, then at best you will just be going around in circles; at worst, you’ll be going backward! Planning and keeping abreast of the latest technology is
imperative in the rapidly changing world of information technology (IT). As Alice might put it, IT just keeps getting “curiouser and curiouser.”

It Means What I Mean!

Then, just when I feel that things might be going in the right direction again, I invariably stumble across a Humpty Dumpty. You remember Humpty Dumpty, don’t you? He was that good egg who sat on
the wall and spouted off about everything under the sun, sometimes without the requisite knowledge to back up his statements. Humpty Dumpty is famous for saying “When I use a term, it means
whatever I choose it to mean — nothing more, and nothing less.”

As IT professionals, we must deal with this type of individual all too often. This type of imprecision is tolerated and excused all the time. Why else would there be so many synonyms and homonyms
in our business and technical lexicon? There are too many Humpty Dumptys out there. And too many folks who accept this type of answer, too.

So What?

So what does all of this mean? Well, I guess I can sum up my feelings by quoting another sage who doesn’t get the respect he deserves-—Uncle Joe from the old television series,
Petticoat Junction. When asked his opinion on a dispute his family was having Uncle Joe replied “I’m for whatever is right.” Me too! I’m for whatever’s right!

I hope you don’t feel cheated taking advice from children’s books and old TV sitcoms. But sometimes you can find nuggets of wisdom in the strangest places. In this hectic day and age of
downsizing and rapid change, we sometimes need to be grounded with basic realities. Things like “you need to have a plan in order to accomplish anything” and “you need to have common and
well-understood definitions in order to effectively communicate” should be common sense. Try to make sure they are at your company.

This might prove difficult. Once people get stuck in their ways, they can be hard to change. But it is worth the effort. Its just like my Grandfather used to say–“people have more fun than

Or do we?

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Craig Mullins

Craig Mullins

Craig S. Mullins is a data management strategist and principal consultant for Mullins Consulting, Inc. He has three decades of experience in the field of database management, including working with DB2 for z/OS since Version 1. Craig is also an IBM Information Champion and is the author of two books: DB2 Developer’s Guide and Database Administration:The Complete Guide to Practices and Procedures. You can contact Craig via his website.

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