Using People Instead of Code

It’s a rare IT group that, when a requirement is put on the table by the business, doesn’t respond by trying to figure out how to embed that requirement into software.

It is, after all, what they are paid to do!

Yet good architects and good designers at the table will resist the urge to jump into code and first ask “does this make sense” as a coded solution?

That question is a sign they’re paying attention to the long-term cost of choices.

It doesn’t always make sense to encode for every possible choice. Sometimes, the right answer is to have components available that can be configured by a person to form a custom solution.

Consider electrical power — major industries almost always have a specialized power contract, with rate adjustments and consumption abatements. Some forms of insurance, and consumer packaged goods supply chains coupled to test market or purchasing sales data, are two more examples where a simple “one size fits all” isn’t reality.

Once systems are in place, custom transactions must then be coded into them.

These can introduce high levels of complexity in the form of custom modules or modified packages that must be maintained, year after year.

While the system is now capable of handling the relationship electronically, the enterprise is burdened with a higher cost base as a result.

This trade-off makes sense when masses of detailed data affects the custom transaction, as it might in a bulk cellular agreement with a carrier where the final charges depend on call details.

There, computerization handles the data morass and makes the maintenance costs worthwhile.

When the data is simpler, however, these thoughtful architects calculate instead how this cost base compares to hiring and using a clerk to manually tabulate and prepare an invoice — and if the person costs less, they propose that this be the way IT provides for the requirement.

Agility and excellence in customer service often involves making it possible for a human agent to make decisions — in effect, breaking a large process into components that can be reconfigured or discarded as needed.

But similar opportunities exist in the back office functions, too.

The quest for operational excellence in and around the IT portfolio will often turn on “de-computerizing” where it makes sense.

Not all problems, in other words, are most efficiently solved by systems.

Heresy to many, I know, but checking the numbers from time to time may unlock funds you didn’t know you had access to — and your credibility with the business will grow, too.


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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