Wednesday, January 06, 2010

... except for all those other forms that have been tried

Tim Bray writes in 'Doing it Wrong' that we're building Enterprise Systems all wrong.    He correctly notes that a couple of guys self-medicating with caffeine and high hopes can knock together a Twitter or Facebook overnight and correctly notes that it can take years to slap up a working enterprise system.

The prescription: Delete formal specs, add ad-hoc process.  Goodbye, JDE.  Say hello to ERP Twitter and shake hands with a new millennium of lower costs and happy end users.

Here’s a thought experiment: Suppose you asked one of the blue-suit solution providers to quote you on building Ravelry or Twitter or Basecamp. What would the costs be like? And how much confidence would you have in a good result? Consider the same questions for a new mobile-network billing system.

The point is that that kind of thing simply cannot be built if you start with large formal specifications and fixed-price contracts and change-control procedures and so on. So if your enterprise wants the sort of outcomes we’re seeing on the Web (and a lot more should), you’re going to have to adopt some of the cultures and technologies that got them built.

The guys and gals in the IT department don't insist on specs and change control because they love them.  They have that stuff because they represent imperfect attempts to meet messy and byzantine business requirements.  Those requirements are already as simple as they can be: complexity costs money.

It is not possible to magically abstract that complication away by deleting JDE and throwing Twitter at the business.

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