IT Management Blog: my thoughts about putting the "i" in IT

The house that never was

A long time ago, I received an email about a story where a man instructed a builder to build a house for him. He gave his requirements but also said to talk to his wife and kids to consider their needs. The whole story was rather funny and obviously you could see that the house to be built became basically impossible. It was an anecdote for the business requirements gathering process. I am currently faced with a situation that I thought could best be expressed in a similar way, though somehow I couldn’t get the funny bit in.

Business Manager: I need a two story house with a drive in garage to live in.

IT Manager: That will cost you a $.

Executives: Sorry too costly, you can have something for a ½ $

Business Manager and IT Manager: OK, let’s make a bungalow without a garage.

Some time goes by ….

Business Manager: Can we finish off the house and put that second story on top and put that garage in?

IT Manager: Yes, it will cost you ¾ $ because we need to rebuild part of what you already have.

Executives: Sorry, too expensive.

Some times goes by …

Business Manager: Can’t we do something about it? We need some expansion. It’s too small. I’ve got a few cents left over.

IT Manager: I can start building some small improvements for a room on top during the weekends. It will take more time. I can throw in a few cents of my own as well to help you out. However we must be wary of the fact that the foundation wasn’t built to have a second story on top. So we have to be careful and it won’t be the most solid construction.

Business Manager: Please do it, we need the extra space and every little bit helps.

Some construction work goes on. Not is only one room added, but later another one. Also an extra shower is added to the top floor. Over time quite some cents are poured into the expansion of the house, all adding up to the ½ $. But since it is done each time by other builders and without an overarching plan, the result is not very solid and not very elegant.

Business Manager: You know, this house that we’ve got, actually it is not really what we need. These days, we’re using it more as an office and sometimes also as a little factory. And we need to be able to park that car somewhere. The rooms on the ground floor to are too small, can’t you make something so we can park upstairs?

IT Manager: Sorry. No. That would be such a radical reconstruction that we would be better to knock it down and rebuild from scratch. With what I think you want, it’s going to cost you a $. However, I suggest you rethink whether you want a home, an office or a factory because once built, it’s not easy to change it. Why don’t you consult a fortune teller?

Business Manager: OK, I’ll get that fortune teller to advice us on what we need. I’ve already asked for that $ you said that was required. But all this is going to take some time, can we still make some more smaller improvements? 

I am curious what will come next…

Sometimes you have those legacy systems that grow and grow. When the business processes slowly change over time, after a while it becomes very inefficient or even impossible to adapt the system to the changed needs. Because the core design of the system does not align anymore with the business process, users will come back for more and more smaller changes while never really being satisfied. The developers run into limitations and certain changes just can’t be made anymore.

There are only two options. Accept the limitations of the system and stop investing in more system changes or do a proper business analysis, redesign the business processes where required and subsequently design and build a complete new system accordingly.