A variety of comments on the business information systems industry and its current shortcomings which highlight some of my views on the industry:
1. There ARE a huge number of very sincere and very passionate people who do NOT understand why things fail and sincerely believe that they are NOT the problem!
2. There ARE some competent implementers who deliver consistently high value solutions but they are the exception rather than the rule.
3. Generally client executives and personnel have NO detailed knowledge or experience of the problems that occur OR of the correct solutions which can make it very difficult to have an effective conversation with regard to undertaking a project or activity in such a way that it will produce a high value outcome – the credibility of the advisor is critical.
4. The Strategic Advisor to the CEO should operate at such a level that they can anticipate the views of the Chief Executive and the Executive team and should, in a sense, act as an Interim Executive.
5. An effective Strategic Advisor will help to streamline the entire project with time savings overall across the board.
6. Project managers do NOT generally give Strategic Solution Architecture direction – this is NOT part of their job description NOR of their knowledge and experience set – this is a distinct very senior role that requires a very mature and highly experienced person with the ability to interpret the requirements of the business in business executive terms and translate them into a headline level technology design.
7. Experience with designing and building physical things that work should be an integral part of training any University Graduate or College Diploma student who is being groomed for a career in Business Information Systems.
8. Wrong decisions cause IT project failure, the technology is entirely manageable.
9. The Internet has ALWAYS been a “cloud”, recent hype ridden references to “THE CLOUD” is a typical example of the marketing hype that drives the IT industry and confuses and confounds otherwise rational business executives and managers.
10.Pragmatic first principles of the technology is a VITAL requirement for any person seeking to provide consulting and project services in the business information systems arena.
11.A “Professional” is “one who makes their living in a particular way and brings a level of expertise and accountability to their role thereby giving the client assurance of the reliability of their advice – in the context of “Professional Advisor”.
12.Most IT people and particularly business information system and ERP implementation consultants lack formal training in analytical and problem solving methods.
13.The business systems industry has a dominant track record of sub-optimal outcomes and outright failure. The value-add potential of business systems is very considerable but is seldom delivered except in the most limited manner. The opportunities are very considerable for organizations that will seek to learn the skills necessary to configure and utilized these systems to their full potential.
14.Successful high value business information system project outcomes are generally the consequence of the intuitive visionary abilities and leadership of one person who understands the fundamentals rather than the consequence of proven and reliable methods applied by a team.
15.There is a HUGE difference between the best implementation of any software solution and the worst – which also happens to be the norm – clients and business generally are numbed out to accept gross mediocrity and unmet promises.
16.All the modern commercially available business software products are extremely configurable with the result that the opportunities to configure them sub-optimally or downright badly are huge!
17.The Business Information Systems and ERP industry is overrun with greed, incompetence and negligence that makes little real effort to improve the quality of its implementations because the expectations of customers have been dumbed down to such levels of mediocrity that organizations expect to pay out huge sums for pseudo solutions that offer almost NO return relative to what IS possible.
18.The design of the Chart of Accounts is fundamentally an Information Engineering activity and NOT a finance activity in the same way that design and construction of a building is the responsibility of Professional Architects, Consulting Engineers and Construction Engineers, NOT the people who occupy the building.
19.The implementation of Business Information Systems is also significantly dominated by “do-it-yourselfers” in business who fail to recognize the abstractness and complexity of high value system configuration and implementation and imperiously dictating settings and approach with NO material appreciation of the risks associated with their actions.
20.There are a huge number of sincere people doing the best they can and honestly believing that what they are doing IS right and best – NOT having the knowledge and experience to recognize that there IS a problem AND that they are PART of the problem. The implementation industry is, as a whole, so profitable there is NOT incentive to change.
21.There is a huge need for formal statutory regulation of the business systems implementation industry and also and independent statutorily constituted Professional body to regulate and licence practitioners coupled to high standard Bachelors Honours degrees followed by years of in service training BEFORE a licence is granted.
22.The methods the industry conventionally uses are fundamentally flawed as indicated by the consistently high failure rate over decades.
23.It is so easy for the boundaries between the client and the contractor to become blurred resulting in shared solution ownership and therefore inability to assign accountability – it is fundamentally the responsibility of the Professionals to conceptualize, design and execute a solution that works for the client, it is the responsibility of the client to accurately state the desired solution outcome, NOT the solution method.
24.In the case of Bridgestone the legacy systems were relatively simple – they had to be because they were old – were replaced by huge and cumbersome systems that failed.
25.The issue of abstractness and invisibility drives the need for very formal and very rigorous contracting, contract management, design, etc.
26.The Business Information Systems industry requires a range of very fundamental skills – listening, problem solving, planning, economics, basic business – requires a minimum four year Honours degree in a new discipline of Engineering and provided by an Engineering Faculty but tailored to business systems.
27.I have diagnosed failed projects by major big brand implementers, including those associated with the big accounting firms, where huge amounts of time have been wasted on totally irrelevant and unproductive activities that have wasted thousands of hours of client personnel time with no benefit other than to implementer revenue.
28.The systems are prone to gross unnecessarily, gimmicky technical complexity while the REAL business complexity is ignored at huge cost.
29.Process mapping, swim-lanes, etc are almost totally irrelevant except in terms of implementer revenue targets – safe to do, takes lots of time and money and never leads to a deliverable so there is NO possibility of being proved wrong – can also be performed using staff with limited qualifications.
30.Average pricing, the same rate for all staff, allows excessive profits on low level staff and disincentivises input from senior and more expensive staff.
31.A LOT of the alleged benefits of the new technology are myth and marketing hype.
32.“The Cloud” is a current example of taking something that has basically been around for decades and hyping it up to create new sales opportunities, many of which will, in time, be found to be reckless and unwise.
33.The problem of mid-level client staff being left to lead mid-level consulting staff down the garden path to design solutions which are totally inappropriate and highly inefficient. Happens the other way round as well.
34.A huge need for mature, grey haired analysts, architects, project managers, etc.
35.A 3 to 5 year degree with 3 to 5 years of on the job training post graduation.
36.Client executives know the desired business outcome, client staff do NOT generally know the best way to get there – that is the responsibility of the consultants.
37.“Process” is a red-herring, YES, there IS a need to do initial high level business discovery but NOT to do detailed documentation of processes.
38.Abstractness – it is probable that the VAST majority of what Bridgestone paid millions for will NEVER be put into production and has been lost.
39.Most executives fail to demand the same standards of excellence from Business systems that they demand from other investments – they do NOT know how!
40.Many implementation firms focus on revenue and NOT quality deliverables – there are too many money focussed people and NOT enough technical solution orientated people in the industry.
41.The tension between the Architect, the Consulting Engineer and the Constructor is a necessary and healthy part of achieving a successful outcome in construction AND in business systems.
42.The Business Systems Consulting and Implementation industry is the most extreme case of greed driven incompetence, negligence and non-delivery on the planet to today and the big names are the worst offenders.
43.The rationale is extraordinary – we have here arguably the most abstract and complex area of business improvement with GREAT potential to do harm to business and yet it is completely unregulated. There is NO formal body of academic or professional training geared to reduce the occurrence of disastrous projects such as the Bridgestone example.
44.Will Bridgestone be to Business Systems Engineering what Grand Teton was to Construction Engineering – the high profile failure that awakens the need for statutory regulation of the industry?
45.When something fails the FIRST place to look in order to apportion accountability is in the MIRROR – NOT a IT consulting practice.
46.The Bridgestone case either evidences criminal duplicity and outright dishonesty or bungling incompetence.
47.Many IT and Business System consultants are so taken up with gimmicky features that they lose sight of the business and the content and creating enduring value and so they give dangerous counsel and waste much effort and money.
48.There is much about business software that is very basic but has been grossly over complicated as evidenced by the Bridgestone case.
49.Business Information Systems is a sales and marketing driven industry, NOT an industry based on engineered excellence.
50.The headline requirements can be quickly discovered by a very experienced Strategic Solution Architect in a short space of time but requires at least a Master Degree and twenty years’ experience in most cases.
51.Deploying a broad based integrated suite as was done at Bridgestone is roughly equivalent to dumping the staff in a new city halfway around the world with head masks on that let them see only a pin-prick of the view at a time – without training it is a disaster.
52.Consider the legislation that regulates the Civil Engineering Construction Industry as a source of ideas for how to regulate the Business Systems industry.
53.When an IT person says “it is NOT possible” this generally means “I do NOT have a clue how to do this and I cannot be bothered to find someone who does know how to do it”.
54.When an IT sales person says “it is easy” this frequently means “I have a vague idea how we might do this but it sounds interesting and I am sure we will manage to hack it and make good money”.
55.It is the nature of design that we never get things right first time and we need to iterate to refine understanding and design and pick up unintended errors.
56.If we plan for 3 iterations we should achieve closure by iteration three most of the time. If we do NOT plan for a designated number of iterations things generally drag on indefinitely.
57.We have the huge paradox of people who have for the most part NO formal engineering training with regard to the rigours of designing and building things that work leading what is arguably the most abstract business design and commissioning engineering activity on earth.
58.The “Process” myth.
59.The “Cobol is dead” myth http://www.techwell.com/2014/06/cobol-still-used-more-google, Google search on the quoted text “Shortage of Cobol Programmers” returns 8,450 exact matches and superficial research indicates a huge demand for Cobol skills – so Bridgestone did NOT actually have to replace their systems, at least not with an urgency that caused a massive system meltdown and huge business damage. Search for “cobol compiler” returns 98,400 results for the exact match – there are plenty of modern Cobol Compilers out there.
60.The continuing association of large consulting businesses with the major audit firms coupled to cross referral of business from the audit practice massively clouds the situation and is a major and ongoing conflict of interest and abuse of trust.
61.There are a very large number of sincere and committed people in the business systems industry that but does NOT mean that their methods are effective – it is possible to be sincerely wrong!