Beauty and the Repeat

Blog /Beauty-and-the-Repeat

I love a challenge. I remember back in North Idaho being challenged by a neighbor kid to see who could hold onto an electric fence the longest. I won. In one sense of the word.

So I have some experience in the area of naïve courage. For example, I have quite a bit of sympathy for Bill Condon. Mr. Condon is directing the live-action remake of Beauty and the Beast, scheduled to be released in mid-March. You want to talk about guts? How about remaking the first animated picture to be nominated for Best Picture in 1992? Think about this challenge. If you change anything from the original, the fans of the first release will feast on your metaphorical bones in online forums. If you change nothing from the original, people will complain that all you did was re-film the cartoon. As I said, Mr. Condon is a brave man.

It’s tough to recreate a success. But it’s worse if you repeat a failure. Those who are as old as I am will remember the wave of client-server that swept away all resistance from 1987 to about 1994. It literally changed the way we designed, architected and wrote systems. It allowed us to walk away from the mainframe and really get creative.

And boy, did we get creative. We wrote extremely innovative systems unconstrained by existing data, processes, interfaces and standards. We used tools from companies that sometimes announced, released and patched their development environments—and then folded before the promised 2.0 version. We rode that wave of innovation and helped change the industry and the business world.

Then the next wave came in—ERPs. SAP released R/3 in 1992. Suddenly, everyone in business wanted to know why the current disparate systems couldn’t do what the SAP R/3 demo could do. Why wasn’t our data in one place? Why wasn’t there only one version of the truth here? Why did you have to sign onto so many different systems for the most basic transactions?

And so the beauty and creativity of many client-server systems got washed away in the ERP implementation wave of the ’90s.

When I see a trend in IT today, I always reflect on past market challengers and changers. So as I think back on 1987, I see some parallels with digital business. Creativity is king again. Darn the databases and full speed ahead! But I think we need to prevent the circumstances that led to the ERP wave washing out creativity.

We need to ensure that the information used by our new digital systems is implemented in the cloud—and with a carefully thought-out strategy. We need to be using an architecture (a digital business bus, if you will) that allows us to ensure that our new digital systems use and reuse the same information from that bus. We need to future-proof our creative digital solutions.

Otherwise, the next wave (Mega-ERP? Super Monster ERP? Revenge of the ERP?) will wash away a lot of creativity in favor of necessary integration. When will that wave hit? When the creativity of our solutions gets outweighed by the annoyance of a customer having to use too many user interfaces, systems, processes and organizations that aren’t integrated.

Be creative, yes. But integrate your creativity to protect it against the waves of the future.

And watch what you’re stepping in before you grab an electric fence. I still can’t look at rain puddles without wincing.

Post Date: 2017-02-02