Can Elephants Learn to Dance?

When I look at modern enterprise IT today — even business unit IT groups — I see units that look mature.

By this, I mean that they have steadily built up a body of process, procedure and policy that is now embedded not only in what they do, but their subconscious assumptions about what is, and is not, possible.

It is those subconscious assumptions that we think will become roadblocks, in many cases, to these units fulfilling the demands placed upon them by their businesses in the years ahead.

What are some of these structural impediments?

Let’s think for a moment about enterprise architecture.

I see many good architectural jobs being done, but what I seldom if ever see is an architecture designed for the quick experiment, the throw-away system, or the small-scale offering.

Each service we add onto the cost of doing things — and Enterprise Architecture is a service — burdens the solution, both in terms of time, and money, by its use.

We expect that this will be far outweighed by the time and money we save through its use, and for large scale implementations this is often the case.

For small, “do it yourself” IT, however, the burden can’t be paid back. This is why the brush-fire of little IT centres keeps popping up in organizations (now, even business unit IT often complains that others in the business unit aren’t using them, but “rolling their own” instead!

What’s driving this change are two factors.

Mash-ups and other modern web methods make it possible for real applications to be built out of pre-existing piece parts (a company like Google is a major purveyor of these).

Software as a service (SaaS) provides the ability to “just get it done” in short order: we have seen organizations with major investments in sales force automation and customer relationship management that, time and again, have Salesforce.com pockets “pop up” — because getting what they need from the installed large package takes too much time and effort (starting with the business case, the meetings with Architecture, etc. to scope the changes that are required).

What needs to happen is that periodically a review of the complexity introduced by the way we do things has to take place.

Which process steps, procedures, forms, etc. could be done away with altogether?

How much of our output — methods, tools, etc. — is packaged for immediate use?

How can we hide the complexity in a few simple steps that lets anyone who needs information move quickly without re-inventing the wheel or taking the work on directly?

Lest this seem a pipe-dream, one company (a technology firm in the Software as a Service space) came up with, as a result of such a review, a way to make new client setup something a clerk could do in a call centre: ask the questions (or read the form filled in on the web) and set the options by check box or radio button.

Set up costs — including customization of the user interface and inclusion of the customer’s logo, colour scheme, etc. to make the resulting SaaS environment “feel” like a home company application — fell to less than 30¢ from a former $500.00 and up.

Can your systems do the same? They ought to be able to.

Corporate IT is in precisely the same business as this company.

What can you revise to make your services this fast and efficient?

Do that and, like the circus elephant, you will have learned to dance, and dance well.

You become the path of least resistance — and the demand flows to you naturally.

That, in turn, lets you generate value through leverage that is lost when you are the path being resisted.

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About passionateobserver

I am a passionate observer of our society, the economy, and politics. Mostly I don't like much of what I see, so I write as a concerned citizen. To the fray, I bring a background in the philosophy of history, a lifetime's reading, a work history in information technology management, consulting and education.
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