Knowledge Draftsman (5/23/2013)
This reminds me of an article I came across earlier in my career... The gist of the piece was that every employee should know how to do their jobs without the use of an automated system. So, that when (not if, but when) the system goes down, the business can continue to function. Granted it won't be at the same productivity level, but business continues none the less. I know there are jobs now, where that's just not possible. However, I think, that too many workers don't know how to do their jobs without the aid of a computer. And, I think, there's real value in knowing how to actually do your job without a computer, as oppose to relying on one. If you can do it without a computer, that signals to me that you truly understand the process; instead of just knowing which buttons to push.
As system professionals I think most of us would be able to implement limited hacked procedures at short notice with off line systems - (web systems apart). Mainly because we can hardly design systems without really understanding the guiding principles of the system.
My default position on one system critical application is make sure the machines are on and recording even if nothing is being calculated. Results can be calculated later from the raw information in excel if needs be but if it ain't recording all the computing power in the world won't help. If I couldn't do that I'd be reduced to smiling and being very calm while quitely informing responsible parties that well nobody is going to die (I would press for multiple true backup alternatives in systems were this was an issue). In some applications I may be able to revert to paper and pen but that won't be possible in a lot of cases.
As fewer and fewer of us make systems for greater and greater numbers of users there is a risk of the end users not understanding the underlying principles because the level of abstraction is so great.
I think this was a problem with the financial crisis. Management didn't fundamentally understand the weaknesses inherent within the procedures the systems promoted. Surely the auditors should have picked up on this. Sadly I think they were so abstracted from the ground level that the combined weight of the accounting world sailed right across the reef for years.