Sunday, August 26, 2007

Perfection by Design and not Evolution. Is it Practical?

To what extent and how?

It's a long time since I wrote here [ and forever since anything sensible ;-) ]. But I finally got my first bank holiday after getting shifted to the UK.

Yesterday, I went to a Ghazal (most well known form of Urdu Poetry) concert of Jagjit Singh, one of the most respected Ghazal singers of our era. Excellent but somehow I was a bit disappointed by the choice of Ghazals. Like the Indian curry houses in the UK, it seemed tailored to suit the local demand. The near absence of Mirza Ghalib's ghazals from a Ghazal concert is like...just missing a chance to satisfy the pseudo-intellect of everyone involved.

Hui Muddat ki Ghalib mar gaya par yaad aata hai
Woh har ek baat pe kehna ki youn hota to kya hota !!

That very ( very very ) loosely translates to:

Has been ages since Ghalib died but his memories still haunt,
His thoughts on almost every scenario; if it happens like this then what? And what if it doesn't?

He must have made a good programmer as well :-)

Cynthia Rettig [ I have no idea who She/he is :-) ] wrote an article on "The Trouble With Enterprise Software" which was more of a question rather than answer about whether enterprise software has become too complex to be effective?

If you don't believe in the 7 days theory then it all started with relatively very simple, single cell formation, called Amoebas. But the million years of evolution transformed it into a giant and complex monster(s). Some of the most complex ones are known as Humans [ or ERP ].

Well, there might be simple solutions to the complex problems. [ At least till we realize ].

From the mentioned article:
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 1980.2 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.

Not sure if The law of diminishing returns, played its part on IT including Enterprise Software. Initially, all they wanted is some kind of accounting software that can replace their Pen/Files/Calculators and were happy when they got it. So in the beginning, even for a small investment, the returns were terrific however as their needs grew further from simple to complex, the investments started to rise substantially but in proportion, the returns were not so great.

Business started expecting their answers from IT and rightly so. Answers for not just Whats but Whys, Hows and Whens as well. Further, it led to complexity that now seems so unjustifiable.

Some of the problems are also due to the fact that it was all driven by evolution and not by design. So at every given point we end up in having something that will be phased out or evolve itself further. But then this is the case with almost every other thing.

Read the articles of Shai Agassi, [ Mind the Gap / Software by Design / What is ERP? ].

Read Thomas's counter post about the mentioned article here.

The major problem however can be due to a very well known fact. ‘To err is Human’. Software does not make mistakes by itself but unfortunately it's made by Humans (correction: programmers). The decisions are finally taken by the IT & business people and only around 20% of those are likely be good ones [That too not always]. Bad decisions keep on multiplying the problems and after a few years it becomes a mess. It's not correct to blame just the software.

The difference between excellence and Perfection is probably just a step. But it does take a lot to bridge that gap. Probably, nothing can be perfectly perfect ever, however that does not mean it won't survive. But there is no guarantee it will either ;-)

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