Tuesday, 28 December 2010

The False Promise of "Adopt now, and all will adapt"

It's the most widespread lie across IT. Translated from seller to buyer, it says: just buy our stuff, it's great, pretty soon everyone will have it and then you'll have the advantage over all the others

It's how hypes made it in, trends, useful stuff too, but also ERP and CRM trying to take the entire pie in stead of just pieces, resulting in a considerable amount of which they couldn't eat themselves. Monolithic applications like SAP, Oracle and all the other attempts to one-size-fits-all: if applied to dynamic business processes they'll only slow you down - if not now, it'll only be a matter of time

Sounds familiar? Sure does. Religions, Politics, Economics, everywhere you go you'll get the same promises: do as we tell you, and you'll belong to the majority, and everyone else will adapt to your needs.
In my third-to-last post, I didn't end with a rhetorical question or fantastic answer, and had my reasons for that

I've always wondered about the mysterious ways in which the presence of IT seems to justify a disconnect between (business) people and machines. No matter how large a company or even enterprise is, people all across it will understand each other if they're in the same ballpark, and share a business vocabulary for processes, activities, rules and exceptions. They seek fellow business partners and suppliers to do business with, or adapt themselves to new business opportunities so they can adopt the benefits of it

They adopted their own business model once, and will tune and tweak it in a continuous fashion, with small steps at a time. Never change a winning team is combined with nosing around for bigger and better business opportunities, and growing along with the changing world around them. Meanwhile, they look for others who fit their profile so they can easily do business with them at little extra cost

In IT, there is no such thing yet. Vendors and system integrators are great at tailor-making a company's IT to the needs they deem fit. Loose coupling is a widely and wildly misunderstood concept that is only applied in tech, and not in business. Loose coupling is not about XML of course, it is about decoupling IT applications from your own business model. IT is a necessary evil, and shouldn't harm or even slow down your business. Yet, it is the greatest spoiler of new business for middle-sized companies and up

Yes, it's inevitable that outside vendors, software makers and SaaS offering companies will talk their own language to you. It is comparable to the languages of this world, that are and will always be diverse, following location. Dialects, accents, they have and will always exist - all that is purely on a technical level. If you want to understand, you must first agree to mutual topics, and then tackle the frontier of language

As I sketched in The Great Divide, it is very important to formalise your business language company-wide. If you haven't done so yet, do it now and keep it alive. There are a lot of simple tools out there that will give every employee a voice in this, maximising your ROI.
If you have that language, translate all applications to that business language. Translate them technically, but also business-wise, so you have a single, company wide, automated business language feeding in and out of all your applications

This will enable true and easy BPM. This will enable a true SOA - you can't have anything remotely successful if you build those right on top of applications. An ESB-like hub-and-spoke architecture or federated model will greatly facilitate a move towards this.
Adopt this once, and you'll be able to adapt to any and all applications moving and and out of your IT landscape. For if you're "hiring and firing" them, it must be for strictly business reasons that you do so, menaing they do have a perfect 100% (bis!) fit to your business, and only a technical difference that can be easily overcome

This will enable you to control the directions in which your IT-department will be torn over the coming decade. It will help to centralise, coordinate, measure and manage it all, no matter how diverse and dislocated it all it

Adopt this model now, and you'll always be able to adapt at the least cost and time - how does that sound?

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