Wednesday, February 07, 2007

February 12, 2007


Years ago I was visiting a large manufacturing company headquartered in Connecticut where I was making a presentation on our "PRIDE" Methodologies for IRM. I thought I had a done a pretty good job of explaining the basic concept of Information Resource Management, but the IT Director was having a problem comprehending it. He said, "Tim, what I'm looking for is the ability to know where all of our plants and offices are throughout the Atlantic seaboard, what their systems are, and the data they use." Then, elevating his hand over his head like an airplane, he continued, "I want a view of the enterprise from 50,000 feet."

I told him he had just succinctly described the concept of IRM and I have been using this expression ever since. (I also got the contract shortly thereafter). IRM is the global view of an enterprise's information resources, including its business, systems, and data components. I have described this concept in-depth in past essays, see:

No. 12 - "Understanding the IRM/MRP Analogy" - February 21, 2005


What concerns me lately is how the industry seems to have developed distinctly separate approaches for such things as:

  • Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP)
  • Information Architecture
  • Business Process Reengineering (BPR)
  • Agile/Extreme Programming
  • Object Oriented Programming (OOP)
  • Data Mining
  • Enterprise Architecture
  • Project Management
  • Service Oriented Architecture (SOA)
  • Data Base Design
  • Programmer Workbenches
  • Business Rules
  • Process Management
  • Quality Assurance
  • DBMS
  • SDLC/Waterfall Methods

All have developed their own unique market niche complete with conferences, books, magazines, and self-proclaimed gurus. All are segregated into separate fiefdoms with little, if any, interfaces between any of them. It seems strange to me they do not work together harmoniously in a cohesive manner. Frankly, we tend to make things more complicated than they need to be.

I tend to believe this is caused because the industry takes a rather myopic view of things. Basically, all of these efforts started out as rather simple ideas which have been refined and marketed as the panacea du jour. I am reminded of IBM's efforts in the 1980's with AD/Cycle who made a futile attempt to develop an integrated development environment. The reason for it's failure was primarily due to the lack of cooperation between the participating vendors to agree upon standards for developing a unified environment. And frankly, as competitors, it was not in their best interest to do so. To do so might impact their competitive advantage. Interestingly, AD/Cycle and most of the vendors who participated in the project have moved on, but the problem of an integrated environment has not.

Unlike the IT Director mentioned earlier, very few people want to see the "big picture." Instead, people in the industry have evolved into taking a tool-oriented approach for solving problems. In other words, the only problems seemingly worth addressing are those that can be conquered by the tools they are currently using. Anything outside of their scope is considered irrelevant and "someone else's problem." This is like having an orchestra without a maestro; all of the instruments play well but not in a concerted manner (and believe me, this is not a concert we would pay to see).

The objective of any CIO or IT Director is to create a homogeneous development environment as opposed to the heterogeneous environment just described. Doing so allows the staff to row on the same oar and not in opposing directions.

So, what is the common bond? Another new tool or technique? Hardly. Instead a very simple concept: Information Resource Management. IRM is more about management than it is about technology. In fact, it is a philosophy of management; a way of thinking, a management approach (not tool-oriented) to design and control resources to satisfy the information requirements of an enterprise. Ultimately, it represents organization, discipline and accountability. Like the comment about "50,000 feet," IRM requires a new perspective, one derived from the fundamentals of manufacturing and engineering. It begins with a belief that a system is a product that can be engineered and manufactured like any other product. If you can buy into this belief, than synchronizing all of the disciplines is not only feasible, it is highly likely.


In this industry, we tend to worry about the wrong things. This is like rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. Instead, we should take a more global perspective on the problem, organize ourselves accordingly and conquer it. To do so does not require the use of any particular tool or technique. Instead, we have to climb up upon the mountain, look down, and chart a course of action. This is what Information Resource Management is all about. Its not about mastering a specific instrument, its about orchestration. But this can only happen if we define and standardize our concepts and terminology and turn IRM from an art to a science. Together, we can create a symphony.

OUR BRYCE'S LAW OF THE WEEK therefore is... "IRM is the view of the enterprise from 50,000 feet."


Friends, the "PRIDE" Methodologies for Information Resource Management (IRM) is a common sense solution for Enterprise Engineering, Systems Engineering, Data Base Engineering, and Project Management. The methodologies include defined work breakdown structures, deliverables, and review points that promote quality and the production of industrial-strength information systems. Building information resources is a science, not an art form. Our methodologies clearly explain the concepts that govern them, which remarkably, is derived from engineering/manufacturing practices. Now you can get these acclaimed methodologies for free at our corporate web site at:


Something that has irritated Windows users for a long time is its defragmentation utility. To the ordinary user, the concept of defragging a hard drive is a very nebulous concept. In a nutshell, defragmentation is the process or reorganizing and rewriting files so that they occupy one large continuous area on your hard disk rather than several smaller areas. Basically, the theory is to improve performance (which never seems to actually happen).

But my question is why does the operating system allow data to be written inconsistently on the hard drive at all? Sounds like a pretty flimsy file management system to me. Back in the days of IBM's OS/2 operating system, we never worried about such things. In fact I still have a few machines in my office still using OS/2 for the last fifteen years and I have never had to defrag their hard drives. When I mention this to my friends, they look at me incredulously as they believed everyone had to defrag their hard drives. No, Virginia, they don't.

So, here we go again with another release of a Microsoft operating system and I have to ask why defragmentation is still in Windows. The user should not have to worry about such nonsense, either the operating system can efficiently read and write to the hard drive or it can't. Instead of "state of the art" maybe we should call Windows "state of confusion."

Such is my Pet Peeve of the Week.


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I received an e-mail from AC Kemper in Athens, OH who wrote me regarding last week's Pet Peeve, "Systems Development Priorities."

AC writes:

"Wow, you say programming should only take up about 15% of the development process? Try 90% in our shop."

Thanks AC for your note,

Yes, this is the problem I was alluding to in my essay. For example, consider the distribution of job titles in the IT department. How many are systems analysts and how many are programmers (or whatever the title du jour is these days)? This will give you an idea of where your company's priorities lie. It is not uncommon to see a 7:1 ratio of programmers to analysts (if not higher). To my way of thinking, it should be reversed. But to make this happen, you have to ask what is management's perspective on development. Do they see it as an art or a science? Is the staff treated as unbridled free spirits allowed to do their own thing or as disciplined professionals? Your answer will say a lot about your company's perspective on systems and its development practices.

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

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

Our corporate web page is at:

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This is Tim Bryce reporting.

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



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