Tuesday, October 2, 2007

«Hope, Unfortunately, has never been a very effective strategy»

You have to love that sentence, in an article about IT and its challenges.

The article is titled "The Trouble With Enterprise Software", by Cynthia Rettig, and - much in the same vein as "Does IT matter?" - it talks about the "failure" of enterprise software (ERP-like software, but not limited to), the complexity of software, the problems with data quality, the mis-alignment of business executives with IT, and the promise of SOA:

The timeline itself for this kind of transformation may just be too long to be realistically sustainable and successful. The dynamic business environments of today, where whole industries and markets can undergo radical changes in a matter of a few years and the horizon for corporate strategies has shrunk from 10 years to three to five, makes it questionable whether companies can actually maintain a focused strategy long enough to align their core business processes with IT.

The article includes very interesting data, and unfortunately it proposes no solutions. Software, in it's "infinite" flexibility, is a complex beast to tame, and not all (most?) the promises it made materialized.

The average professional coder makes 100 to 150 errors for every 1,000 lines of code

The view that ERP software, by its size and unicity, tries to avoid the difficulties of integrating distinct [fractal-like] modules and applications, is an interesting one. But apparently, if...

75% of ERP implementations were considered failures

... that may not be the way. But Gregor Hohpe reminds us, in Enterprise Integration Patterns, that developing loosely coupled asynchronous systems (today's fad) implies more complex development and debugging, that basically means we (IT) really have a tough problem.

[...] the way most large organizations actually process information belies that glorious vision and reveals a looking-glass world, where everything is in fact the opposite of what one might expect. Back office systems — including both software applications and the data they process — are a variegated patchwork of systems, [...] installed over decades and interconnected by idiosyncratic, Byzantine and poorly documented customized processes. To manage this growing complexity, IT departments have grown substantially: As a percentage of total investment, IT rose from 2.6% to 3.5% between 1970 and 1980. By 1990 IT consumed 9%, and by 1999 a whopping 22% of total investment went to IT. Growth in IT spending has fallen off, but it is nonetheless surprising to hear that today’s IT departments spend 70% to 80% of their budgets just trying to keep existing systems running.

The Red Queen hypothesis, usually applied to Human evolution, states that

For an evolutionary system, continuing development is needed just in order to maintain its fitness relative to the systems it is co-evolving with. (from wikipedia)

I wouldn't be surprised if these same words also applied to IT and business environments.

The Red Queen in Lewis Carrol's "Through the Looking-Glass" says:

Now, here, you see, it takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place.

There's some comfort in the following sentence, however:

If you want to get somewhere else, you must run at least twice as fast as that!

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