Wednesday, December 11, 2013

O'Flaherty's First Law of Applied Technology

FQA Wednesday again. In lieu of answering a specific question, today I would like to expound upon something someone else said. Not only is this utterance interesting and apropos, it is also already thought of, saving me some time and effort.

"It isn't the technology that takes the time." Douglas J. O'Flaherty (

Doug has an annoying habit of reducing my intricate and entertaining tales of technology deployment woe to this oft-repeated and simple phrase.

(It is oft-repeated because I complain alot about getting real-world solutions out the door, on to the lab floor and working as well as they should. But that is another story.)

What I understand him to mean is this: information technology is dynamic and evolving, but it is relatively straightforward and relatively well-understood. But in order to apply technology to the real-world business processes that would benefit from that technology, a number of generally poorly-managed, poorly-understood and complex tasks have to be accomplished first:
  • get input from stakeholders, who are often diverse and out of phase with each other
  • build a consensus from that input
  • turn that consensus into specifications which can be acted up
  • turn that consensus into action items which really are accomplished
Only at that point does the programming start. When mired in the trenches of implementation, I tend to forget all the pain that went into clearing the path for the implementation and instead I tend to focus on the process failures which leave me with bad specs.

As a technology guy who is constantly frustrated by project scheduling, I guess I do need pretty frequent reminding: it isn't the technology that takes the time.

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