I read this very good post “The Number One Trait of a Great Developer” by Tammer Saleh at Engine Yard, and it made me think…
I used to rant about “It’s the Business, Stupid” in conferences, implying that we should be solving problems for our clients, not simply playing with the next shiny toy. Sure, I love shiny toys, and I love to play with them — especially when they make sense within the context of solving a problem. But your scenario is an oft-spotted pattern where folks lack the engineering skills required to build right-sized solutions to meet the here-and-now needs.
And of course, anyone can come up with a complex solution that sprawls across multiple cubicle walls on e-size plotter paper (that’s easy). Only a rare few can come up with the minimalist solution that meets the needs of the business, and can easily grow over time.
As far as hiring, I like to look for the “engineering” mind. After all, engineers put man on the moon, not scientists.