Software Supporting Processes Not the Other Way Around

Posted on February 19, 2008  Comments (9)

Rental Car IT

What was funny about that exercise were the looks we got from the no nonsense King of IT: “Of course, we want things to be simple and flexible — why are you bothering to tell us this?” Yet, in the next sentence, they are talking about spending 3 million dollars on a packaged application to help them with one small part of their business, rather than building it themselves (which we all thought would be cheaper but take longer). That’s $3,000,000. But, of course, the packaged application talks directly to their databases, meaning that we can no longer freely make changes to the database without breaking the package, meaning that we can’t evolve the database, meaning that we’ve lost both simplicity and flexibility. Over and over, they complain when we talk about rethinking their priorities, then turn around and make the same decisions that got them where they are now. Frustrating!

This is a good post on the systemic drivers of complex processes, take the time to read the whole post. I have a bias is against off the shelf software as it often ends up forcing the process to be designed around the software. And with the amazing power and relative ease of web based applications creating solutions that are specifically designed to the organization are often relatively easy. And yet, as indicated in this article there is often a strong bias in the other direction for buying off the shelf software because it is cheaper and/or faster.

Of course, the decision in each case must be weighed to determine the benefits and cost of the various alternatives. Just remember, if you decide you want simple and flexible, to have your decisions reflect that. I enjoy a telling quote from a software vendor on Toyota’s IT expectations: “it demands that the software or technology be flexible and adapt, often by customizing the code, to its business processes, and not the other way around.” They are right.

Related: Agile Software DevelopmentComplicating SimplicityJoy in Software Development

9 Responses to “Software Supporting Processes Not the Other Way Around”

  1. Build it or buy it? « Process Rants
    March 5th, 2008 @ 9:08 pm

    […] whether they should build a given application or buy something off the shelf and just use it.  A great blog entry speaks to the exact issue.  There is a school of thought that software should fit the process and […]

  2. Curious Cat Management Improvement Blog » Top Blogs for Software Development Managers
    September 14th, 2008 @ 8:08 pm

    I am happy to say our blog has been included in the Top 100 Blogs for Development Managers. The list of blogs is quite impressive…

  3. Curious Cat Management Blog: IT Business Process Support
    December 3rd, 2008 @ 1:45 pm

    organizations would benefit from increasing the resources to IT and shifting the focus from passive supplier to active participant in using information technology to meet business needs…

  4. Curious Cat Management Improvement Blog » Management By IT Crowd Bosses
    July 14th, 2009 @ 2:22 pm

    Anyone involved in IT know Internet Explorer 6 is not an acceptable tool in this day and age. But some IT departments don’t let that stop them from forcing it on their users…

  5. Curious Cat Management Blog: Baking in Quality to Software Development
    August 15th, 2009 @ 2:59 pm

    It isn’t just the switch to Ruby, of course, but the switch to Ruby coincided with the beginning of many improvements to our software development practices that have continually improved over the last couple of years…

  6. Scott Sorheim
    July 22nd, 2010 @ 1:10 pm

    Brilliant. Came across this reading some of your other articles.

    I blogged about something similar a while back (reference a Mike Vizard article talking about the same thing…bending business process to match the IT system).

    http://leantech.com/blog/2007/06/06/one-massive-size-cant-fit-all/

    Even though I sell a packaged solution, I freely tell people when my solution DOES NOT meet their needs, and for business to not try to force it to do so. I’ve done significantly more custom development in the last couple years building systems that line up with the company’s processes. There can be a lot of value having a business system that lines up with the business process, and tremendous waste with a system not in line with the business process.

    Just like a manufacturing team would build “custom” equipment to support the best process that adds the most value to the customer, why aren’t IT thinkers thinking this same way? You wouldn’t hope for a car to come out the end of a machine that makes chairs? But that’s what people expect of THE SYSTEM (whatever system it is)…that THE SYSTEM will somehow be able to meet all of the needs of their business processes. Build smaller applications that add the most value rather than expecting THE SYSTEM to do it all.

  7. Process Thinking: Process Email Addresses » Curious Cat Management Improvement Blog
    October 19th, 2012 @ 9:12 am

    I think it is often sensible to break out email addresses for specific functions or processes. Then the email address can just be routed to whoever is suppose to handle those emails…

  8. The Edge-case Excuse | Coding and Server Syntax Examples
    April 1st, 2016 @ 11:44 am

    […] But I just am so tired of fragile coding being excused as if breaking in lots of “edge cases” is perfectly acceptable when the only reason it fails is because the code is fragile instead of being built in a robust way to begin with. […]

  9. Functional Websites are Normally Far Superior to Apps » Curious Cat Management Improvement Blog
    April 23rd, 2016 @ 11:31 am

    […] The Edge-case Excuse for Fragile Code – Management By IT Crowd Bosses – Software Supporting Processes Not the Other Way Around – Process Thinking, Process Email Addresses – Deming and Software Development – […]

Leave a Reply





  • Recent Trackbacks

  • Comments