Sunday, January 08, 2012

Distributed information systems

A week after posting on my UniPhi blog about capturing programme management data through the aggregation of distributed project data entered by project managers, an article about distributed energy and communication comes online at my preferred energy blog This guys positive views on the growth and potential of a third industrial revolution are very refreshing. There are several risks to this revolution coming to fruition. One of which is corporations lack of awareness of the distributed communication possible through web based platforms.

Organisations that realise the power of distributed data capture will definitely be able to invest in systems and processes that generate significant competitive advantage. The primary advantage is the ability to know when something goes wrong (or right) the moment it does so. Through the power of Twitter it was possible for any person with internet access anywhere in the world to know that the US were engaging with Osama bin Laden as it was happening. Although at first it was unknown who it was they were attacking, the fact that hundreds of millions of people could have known about a top secret mission as it was happening is an incredible example of distributed information systems. Suddenly, managing a multi-national business with 50,000 employees doesn't seem too difficult, and yet all the example companies I have worked with that fit the 50k plus definition would struggle to generate real time financial, customer and product related information. 

Most organisations still track their progress towards their vision through centralised systems. The main reason for this is the perceived need for security when all security is only as strong as the employee who wants to keep his or her password a secret (or even accidently release this information through the need of tracking the ever growing number of usernames and passwords). It seems that large IT business units pride themselves on restricting the implementation of a distributed data capture model. Actually, it seems large IT business units pride themselves on being as value destroying as possible rather than enabling the true power of software to transform the way businesses function.

These business units are supported by the product development of traditional enterprise software houses producing thick client software with complicated user interfaces that only the specialist business analyst, accountant or marketing guru can master.

Why is Oracle, SAP, Sun and others still insisting on developing centralised thick client financial systems? I know of one project manager that knows the true financial position of their project as at 31st of October 2011! He thinks they may have under invoiced $10m but isn't sure because he has to wait for the head office processes to catch up with where his multi billion dollar programme that crosses multiple countries and states is at. He is trying to catch up through the use of an excel shadow system. Good luck!

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