I have been busy exploring the varied and wonderful world of legacy solutions and modernisation compatibility. My role has been listening, understanding and exploring business critical requirements and looking for solutions and scope from which to devise a way forward for transformation and improved efficient business practices. All at a cost! Are you willing to pay? Can you afford not to? Do you actual know what you want, what you need?
Now I really feel for the teams who after years of blood, sweat and tears and loyalty to an organisation have had to come to terms with seeing their “labour of love” criticised, or analysed as to what the future shouldn’t be like. I hear statements like “we want to simplify”, “this is far too complex and can’t adapt”, “we over engineered this” . . . .
Having to make business wheels turn under business as usual pressures, the constant demand of changes and having to lovingly safeguarded doing business using is a champions job and no small feat! However too often I am seeing this endeavour become a thankless task when modernisation comes into play. I’ve been here!
We should thank these teams for the hours of devotion as it is their past innovation, solution engineering and practices that has helped a whole software consulting industry learn what, why and the many “how” that helped develop new solutions, technologies and paradigms (Cloud/SaaS).
Decisions are made for the circumstance of the day. Solutions built to support the needs of that era weren’t meant to last a life time and be infinitely flexible and accommodating. At some point they will just not be able to cut the mustard any more. They will be no longer fit for purpose. The world matched on . . .
Business moves on, commerce and industry devise new needs and opportunities, models and processes develop, opportunities demand new support models, and yet sometime the infrastructure that is built to support the legacy business model is forced under pressure to perform above and beyond in the new world model!
I recall in another life where the development of the solution had to address the most bizarre requirements at the edge of every possible combination of circumstance and possibilities. This is often termed “future proofing”. Tell me who has the crystal ball and have really ever seen “that” coming”?
This leads to the classic costly over engineering and the long haul cost of ownership and maintenance change, fix and repair cycles, let alone integration, scaling and portability challenges.
I came across this coffee machine at a wonderful facilities provided by a very well established consultancy. It caught my attention in relation to this topic over engineering, bells and whistle and then the cost of ownership and maintenances. It got me thinking while waiting for my coffee. Will it ever be able to make a good cup of tea? Was it ever meant to?
Too many moving part, accommodating people interaction experience verse their responsibility to (place the cup under the tap head), compensating for people effort and generally build complexity for more vulnerability and cost of ownership. How many times have you designed a solution around people capability over what would work simplest?
Easier said than done when there is more than one engineer having fun!
The thing is everyone in the room is a solutions architect. But not one a pop star! There’s tension and their pain and emotional investment of a life time career is exposed and raw. There is great endeavours and knowledge experts that would score highly in Master Mind for their chosen subject, and a fascinating array of professional office politicking. But not one harmonious tune.
My role gives me great insight into many situations, sectors and cultures where change and design clash constantly and where ownership and authority dance to the tune of a different song to that which they think is playing. They need to change tune but more on that later.
I see this clash more and more as enterprises make that move from old platform to Cloud and the realisation that standardisation demands a new song that only a shared platform can sing.
In the room they are all looking for a solution; they are all trapped in a decision of the past and now embroiled in the challenge of change. What often astounds me are the players in the room, the leadership of risk taking and the real issue; “our business model is no longer fit for purpose and our operating practice broken!”
Large amounts of operational expense are maintained in maintaining the modus operandi. Large capital expense is questioned and fought for to establish “betterment” against the backdrop of legacy. This is modern enterprise business in a world of unpredictable change and overpowering competition of new business models of “subscription”.
The intent of all in the room is to do the right thing. The opinion of what is “right” is the challenge of culture, belief, experience and legacy at odds with each other.
When I am sitting in the room and layer after layer of conversation, deviation and ultimate indecision fills the air with noise and awkward body language, indifference, and/or dogma I can’t help having the tune “Complicated” pop into my head. You’re singing the chorus now aren’t you?
Chill out, what you yellin’ for?, Lay back, it’s all been done before , And if you could only let it be, You will see . . . .
I want these companies to go back to the beginning and try to find the true reason why the company and its product became. What drove it to success? Where is the value? What is the differentiator? Cling on to these and then ask:
Why do you have to go and make things so complicated?
I see the way you’re acting like you’re somebody else
Gets me frustrated
You fall and you crawl and you break
And you take what you get and you turn it into honesty
You promised me I’m never gonna find you fake it
No no no
If you fancy a sing alone try this!
Must thank Avril Lavigne fo adding to my corporate change wisdom and therophy.
I once participated in a large team completion to develop a vision of a future concept soon to be a reality for most businesses (going Social). It was intense, 14 teams of 7 and 4 nights to develop a vision to capture the imagination whilst completing mandatory boot camp exercises and training sessions during the day.
It was a team effort but I was convinced that the tag line “The Art of the Possible” that I suggested for the future state resonated with the judges and moved our presentation into the winning position. It was fun, it was reality TV at its worst in a professional working space. And it was confirmation of a business practice of believing its own bullshit beyond an acceptable level IMHO. Apologies if the profanity offends.
What works and what pleases by design? Sadly I am writing this whilst on holiday in the lovely sunshine looking out on some of Mother Nature’s best, which speaks volume for the art of the possible but by design. It is that which inspired this blog post.
I like the resort and the hotel isn’t half bad, no complaints really it is just that after 5 days and as a closet engineer (my grandfather was a specialist in weights and measures making top secret instrument in WW2) I can’t help looking at some areas and services and thinking “by design really?”
What do I mean by that? Well it doing things on purpose, because it was well thought out, it had been considered, it is stress tested, it has been consulted, and it is thoughtful and sympathetic to those who will use it. It worked, it works. It delivers a good satisfying experience.
These are important key success identifies for anything – product, solution, user adoption, RoI, sustainability, usability and on and on . . . .
Some of the resort blends with the wonders of the natural world around or delivers the experience through the environment one expects. Whereas some part of the resort was missing the target enough to make you feel “dis-satisfied”; the exposed poorly finished concrete onto the beach, the level of the buildings in relation to each other or horizon, the closed stairway into the grand wide open spaces . . . . It just hadn’t been thought out, designed.
So how does this relate to the world I experience as a cloud solution practitioner? Cloud computing and the click not code philosophy propels the belief of agility and speed as a huge benefit. And it is.
But by design the principle of deep thought, consideration and that devil’s detail is what will provide the ROI ultimately in any cloud investment. So no change there from the last 30 years of computing I hear you shout.
Well yes frankly. By design and the pain, investment, deliberation, hard slog, stakeholder managements, engagement consideration of end-users, and the need to understand the end operating environment are all required as essential to the art of the possible. The possible but by design.
So I end this blog whilst looking at the luscious landscape and coast line, the blue sky blending into the green of the forest covered hill tops and the sea lapping at the shore. I have to say by design over the art of the possible gets my vote, even if that design takes time to create the fit for purpose experience that delivers the satisfaction of the art possibility.