Perfect Is The Enemy Of Good & More Musings From IBM Impact

LAS VEGAS: The phrase “perfection is the enemy of good enough” was used frequently – by both IBM and a number of its customers – at this week’s Impact 2013. The gathering of over 9,000 customers and partners for the annual WebSphere/SOA-based event got a healthy dose of new and enhanced products, but feeds and speeds was probably the least significant aspect of the knowledge transfer for any IBM event I’ve attended in the past 30 years. Customers – and IBM execs – talked about their pain points, challenges and successes – and spending the time to achieve perfection was largely viewed as a really bad option, especially for the creation, implementation and maintenance of applications.

Moving from legacy systems to a reusable services focus taught Target Corporation, the big-box retail giant a number of key lessons, said Kim Skanson, Enterprise Architecture. “Seek progress over perfection… even small steps forward are progress.”

That’s not to say shoddy work is acceptable. “Good enough doesn’t mean poor quality,” said Marie Wieck, GM, WebSphere, IBM. It means an iterative design, including only two or three of the top requirements in a release, but those two or three features better work, she said. “You have to make sure you’re doing the appropriate tradeoffs… but it’s very different from shipping something that isn’t ready.”

Basically, everybody was talking about a variation on the Pareto Principle or 80:20 rule, where 20% of the features generate 80% of the usage. Demand for new apps is soaring, outpacing both available time and resources.

It’s about a journey where the destination changes on a frequent basis, and organizations must try and anticipate – and respond to where their customers are going – as quickly as possible. For the last couple of years we were being told by our customers how they want to interact with us, when, and where, said Charaka Kithulegoda, CIO, ING Direct Canada. The direct bank has 1.8 million customers, and over 80% of them deal with them through their online channel. “Change is nothing new to us.”

They recognized this trend back in 2009 and went to IBM. “We don’t know where we want to go… and won’t know for a long time, so how to get out there quickly and see where it goes?”

For instance they developed and launched an iPhone application in six weeks, but within two days, they were getting feedback via social channels, that some tweaking was required. So now one of their objectives is how to move from a six-week development cycle to two weeks.

“The notion of knowing what customers want went away two years ago,” said Kithulegoda. “We’ve realized that some of our best performance is when we increase those cycles of integrations.”

For Ford, the realization was that they were not just a car company, but a technology company, said

Vijay Sankaran, Director, Application development. Talking about the Fusion sedan that highlighted the event’s opening keynote, he said it really is not a car, it’s a rolling data center. The car has 17 million lines of code and upwards of 50 processors.

“I would say agility is a business differentiator, not something I see as a fad, and it’s an ecosystem journey. Historically, everything had to be perfect, said Sankaran. “I think the notion of perfection is fading.” Today, it’s about agility, he said.

Another Canadian customer, WestJet Airlines, a low-cost carrier that flies more than 50,000 customers daily, said the rate of change is tremendous, and the risk to not change is greater than the risk to change. “There is a massive competitive advantage if done right,” said Bill Souliere, architect and senior technical advisor. “It can hurt your business if not done right” Essentially you’re offering the same plane and same seat as everybody else, so how do you differentiate your company?

“We’re driving to target the segment of one. If we can get to that, we can realize a great revenue opportunity there, and can save massive costs.”

IBM is taking a lifecycle view, a DevOps view, said Wieck. The company has customers doing 100 mobile app upgrades a year.

DISCLAIMER: IBM is not a client, but they did look after transportation and accommodations.



Author: Steve Wexler

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