Why IT is not like Civil Engineering

Further to my recent article which argued that the building metaphor often applied to IT projects did not work so well for business intelligence, I have dug out a brief piece that I wrote some time ago debunking even the general applicability of the building analogy.

For the avoidance of doubt, this is intended to be a humorous piece, so please do not take it too seriously.
Why IT is not like Civil Engineering

Civil Engineering and IT
Civil Engineering and IT

“If the automobile industry had developed like the software industry, we would all be driving $25 cars that get 1,000 miles to the gallon…”
~ Bill Gates (allegedly)

“…and if cars were like software, they would crash twice a day for no reason, and when you called for service, they’d tell you to reinstall the engine”
~ Unnamed Detroit Executive (even more allegedly)

It is difficult to draw analogies between different industries as Bill Gates found out (at least apocryphally – he did indeed talk at length about comparisons between the PC and automobile industries at the launch of Windows 98, but probably never made the above quote that is often ascribed to him).

If IT was really like Civil Engineering then, in the spirit of Mr Gates and his Detroit counterpart: –

  • The concrete, steel and glass used in a office would have be replaced every five years because Lafarge, Mittal and Pilkington no longer support their old products
  • A year after construction is complete, there would be a requirement to double the size of the 5th, 18th and 34th floors of a skyscraper and to swap the positions of the 1st and 50th floors
  • The building that had been erected in London, would also now need to be situated simultaneously in Frankfurt and Taipei
  • It would also often become necessary to have a bridge between the Sydney and Cleveland offices
  • The factory that was constructed to house an assembly line for dishwashers would need to be adapted to also provide a skateboard park, horse-riding facility and hi-tech laboratory
  • Occupants of buildings would be unable to use the doors or lifts or look out of the windows without calling the Help Desk or referring to the user guide
  • Think Geek Ts would be acquired by Construction Gear
  • Pocket protectors would be replaced by tool belts
  • Brick 2.0 would be of enormous interest to venture capitalists


The IT Crowd and Bob the Builder
The IT Crowd and Bob the Builder


4 thoughts on “Why IT is not like Civil Engineering

  1. Dear Peter
    You probably wanted to say, “If Civil Engineering was like IT” and not as if IT was like Civil Engineering in the beginning of the last para

  2. Anonymous comments are always so helpful – if you don’t want your name associated with what you say, why say it?

    Still interested in what the problem was with what I wrote – care to elucidate?

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.