Thursday, May 11, 2006

May 15, 2006


In the past, I've discussed the various types of information resources found in an information system, the average number of each resource, along with the number of design decisions associated with each which can be voluminous; see:

No. 10 - "Managing Design Complexity" - Feb 07, 2005

The issue of managing complexity is not simple. As our information systems continue to grow in magnitude, so do the costs associated with maintaining and updating them to suit the current requirements of the company. Today's systems have grown into such uncontrollable behemoths that companies either elect to outsource them (thereby transferring the headache to someone else), let them run unchecked in end-users departments (whereby data and process redundancies run rampant), or they try to rewrite the system in its entirety (aka, a "Mission Impossible" project).

Compounding the problem of complexity is a vicious circle phenomenon that occurs during development projects. This circle is actually quite simple to understand and explain:

1. First, we start with a simple system.

2. Inevitably, changing user information requirements trigger a need to change the system.

3. To implement the change, more pieces and parts (resources) are required.

4. The change requires new or different people to implement it.

5. Due to inconsistencies in development (lack of standards), each developer is allowed to implement their piece of the puzzle as they see fit. Consequently, communications suffers thereby hindering development time.

6. Poor communications makes the overall system less manageable which adds to the problem of complexity whereby we become dependent on people to maintain different pieces of the system.

This results in a vicious circle whereby complexity is compounded with every development project. Instead of our systems becoming easier to manage, they are becoming much more complicated. So much so, no one person can visualize the system in its entirety.


To truly understand how communications compounds complexity, let's begin by understanding the number of lines of communications between people:

Interestingly, the number of lines of communications grow exponentially based on the number of people involved. For example:

of People
Lines of

As if maintaining the number of lines of communications isn't enough, we must consider the content of the communications. Even if our lines of communications are well maintained, if there are no standards in terms of terminology and work effort, a "Tower of Babel" effect will result whereby developers trip over each other in an uncoordinated manner. Without standardization, systems become more difficult to maintain and modify, thereby compounding the complexity problem.


The failure of the ability of one person to handle the relationships of the entire system is due partially to the complexity of the system and partially to our failure to develop concepts which enables us to impose structure on this complexity. Because of this lack of structure, the designer cannot communicate properly with the user in defining requirements or in relating a solution for these requirements. The designer cannot properly communicate with the programmers and ultimately with the people who will be using, modifying and maintaining the system after it has been developed. In fact, the programmer cannot properly communicate with the computer due to the unstructured nature of requirements and the complexity of the processes needed to implement large systems.

Finally, this difficulty in communications manifests itself in the unreliability of each information resource in a system. As we have more and more interconnected resources, so that the failure of any resource results in the failure of the whole system, the reliability of each resource must increase, rather than decrease, in order to prevent the entire system from failing. Needless to say, the more complex the system, the less likely it is that each of its resources will be more reliable when they are developed from difficult-to-communicate requirements that are implemented in difficult-to-communicate code. In one sense, we are looking for a solution analogous to the Industrial Revolution when there was the transition of a cottage industry to the industrial enterprise. To do so requires standardization of terminology and basic development concepts. Without such standardization, large systems will continue to grow in complexity. But with standardization and some commonsense management, not only can we begin to reduce the level of complexity, we can turn systems development from an art to a science.

OUR BRYCE'S LAW OF THE WEEK therefore is...
"The number of lines of communications grow exponentially based on the number of people involved in a project."


Friends, I don't know if you've seen it yet, but we've added a Frapper map to the "Management Visions" web site. Frapper is a free mapping service offered by the folks at Rising Concepts, LLC, and allows you to plot yourself on a worldwide map. This is a great way to keep track of our listeners and I encourage you to try it out through our web page or by clicking HERE.


The 17th International Conference of the Information Resource Management Association will be held May 21st-24th at the Wyndham Hotel in Washington D.C. For information, call IRMA headquarters in PA at 717/533-8879

The National And State CIO Association will be holding their 2006 Midyear Conference at The Capital Hilton, in Washington, DC on May 31st-June 2nd. For information, contact NASCIO headquarters in Lexington, KY at: 859/514-9153

MIT's Center for Information Systems Research will hold its annual conference from June 12-16, 2006 on the MIT campus. For information, contact MIT at 617/253-2348

If you have got an upcoming IRM related event you want mentioned, please e-mail the date, time and location of the event to


I don't know about you, but I sure have been getting a lot of Internet Chain Letters in my e-mail box lately. Actually, its nothing new as we have been getting chain letters for several years now. The concept is actually quite simple, dream up some cockamamie scheme and solicit your friends to add their name to a list. Sometimes money is involved, but a lot of times it isn't. Basically, its nothing more than a pyramid scheme to clog the Internet and it can work if everyone was foolish enough to participate in them.

I particularly like the one that says Bill Gates will give everyone a dollar if you add your name to the list and forward the letter on to your friends. Or the one that attacks the gas companies. But most of the chain letters lately have been political or religious in nature where the authors try to appeal to your patriotism or sense of ethics. To me, this is downright dirty.

Look, its simple, its a chain letter that is aimed at clogging the Internet, nothing more, nothing less. No, you won't be jinxed or cursed if you don't respond to it. In fact, someone should be thanking you for not responding; you have just saved a lot of people a lot of time and a lot of trouble.

The Internet is a great way for communicating. Its also a great way to run the scam du jour. The people who invent these chain letters are probably the same people from Nigeria who want you to deposit money in your bank account. The only people who laugh all the way to the bank are the Nigerians.

So, next time you get a chain letter, do me and everyone else a favor, just hit the delete key.

Such is my Pet Peeve of the Week.


I received an e-mail from a Bernie DeMarco in Illinois who wrote me regarding last week's Pet Peeve on Networking.
Bernie writes:

"I agree with your comments about human networking. I found 'pressing the flesh' very helpful in getting established. Please keep up the good work. I circulated last week's broadcast to others on my staff."

Thanks Bernie for your note and your comments, they are very much appreciated. You might also like last week's "PRIDE" Special Subject Bulletin entitled, "10 Tips for Improving Social Intercourse" which provides some commonsense suggestions for improving human relations in the workplace. You can find these bulletins on our corporate web site.

Again, Thanks for your e-mail. Keep those cards and letters coming.

Folks, don't forget to check out our BRYCE'S CRASH COURSE IN MANAGEMENT which is a free on-line multimedia presentation offering pragmatic advice on how to discharge the duties of a manager, whether it be for a commercial or non-profit enterprise. Frankly, for someone aspiring to be a manager or for a new manager, it will be the best 45 minutes you can invest in yourself. Check it out on the cover of our corporate web page at:

For a complete listing of my essays, see the "PRIDE" Special Subject Bulletins section of our corporate web site.

MBA is an international management consulting firm specializing in Information Resource Management. We offer training, consulting, and writing services in the areas of Enterprise Engineering, Systems Engineering, Data Base Engineering, Project Management, Methodologies and Repositories. For information, call us at 727/786-4567.

Our corporate web page is at:

Management Visions is a presentation of M. Bryce & Associates, a division of M&JB Investment Company of Palm Harbor, Florida, USA. The program is produced on a weekly basis and updated on Sundays. It is available in versions for RealPlayer, Microsoft Media Player, and MP3 suitable for Podcasting. See our web site for details. You'll find our broadcast listed in several Podcast and Internet Search engines, as well as Apples' iTunes.

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Copyright © 2006 by M&JB Investment Company of Palm Harbor, Florida, USA. All rights reserved. "PRIDE" is the registered trademark of M&JB Investment Company.

This is Tim Bryce reporting.

Since 1971: "Software for the finest computer - the Mind."



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