Skip Stein
Consulting Services

Commentary on Technology Trends


Computing and information processing should be getting easier to deal with, not more complex.  The idea that someone has to be a network engineer to connect more than two computers in their own home is just one example!


When computing resources were very expensive (like in the 60's and 70's) companies had to manage resources judiciously.  There were development tools, methodologies etc. and a very structured approach to problem solving.  Individuals from ‘user departments’, who knew the business of the organization were ‘recruited’ and trained in this new ‘Computer Technology’ and ‘Data Processing’.  They weren't supported by some of the fancier development tools available today, but then the good developers and maintenance programmers intuitively used good business rules to develop and deploy code-based systems.  New individuals recruited into this new field were treated as journeymen and trained by the ‘more experienced’ individuals in the department.


With the development of relatively low cost tools, relational data base models, and sophisticated desktop machines etc. we have NOT concurrently developed and advanced the management techniques needed to utilize the potential that these advancing technologies.  When COBOL was the main computing language (and still continues within many ‘mainframe’ computer centers), the move was towards more 'user friendly' and easier to understand development languages.  Management techniques were progressing as well towards unifying data, reducing redundancy, and improving ease of access.  Somewhere we took a left turn (or maybe a U turn).  Instead of continuing down the more progressive path toward ease of use and common access, we started using languages that were more closely related to first level assembler/macro languages instead of continuing to develop 'higher level' languages that would more easily be adaptable to a general populace use.  C++, Java, XML all look much like the assembler and macro languages that were used years ago to access data at the bit/byte/word level instead of at the INFORMATION level.  We haven't progressed much except that systems look pretty and sound really 'cool'.


From a true business functional level, there has really been little progress.  There has been lots of talk but little advance towards better ‘information tools’ that would yield a much more effective ROI (Return on Investment).  We still use General Ledger Systems, Accounts Payable/Receivable etc. that are not very much more sophisticated than ones used in the 60's and 70’s.  Sure they have been wrapped in ERP/CRM systems that proclaim to serve the entire enterprise and yes they are better integrated (most still use batch transfer modes between modules) but they really haven't progressed from the general user perspective.  (Just consider the widespread use of Excel spreadsheets in many departments because the ‘system’ doesn’t provide the information resources needed to run the business.)  The same goes for warehouse, distribution and manufacturing systems.


It seems that we should be WAY out there in presenting actual INFORMATION, not just data.  Part of the issue is that the educational levels of professionals in the field are still stuck in the 'technology' area instead of an 'Information Era'!  Instead of utilizing skilled business professionals and training them in the use of advanced tools, we recruit ‘information professionals’ with degrees in Computer Science but with little knowledge of how business actually works.   What happened to SQL (System Query Language)? It was defined as an easy to use common data query language, but now you need a degree in data base management to use most of the variations.  Data descriptors and such require a high degree of technical expertise to figure out how to access the most rudimentary data.  Back in the late 70's a company called Microdata developed an 'ENGLISH' query language on the early generation micro-computers  (later developed into the PICK OS feature set).  It was a primitive but very functional SQL that provided business users to access data without extensive programming skills.  The format was not sophisticated but the data delivery was timely and relatively fast.  We haven't gone much beyond that except now the databases are larger and more confusing than ever!


We continue to deploy ERP, no now it's CRM, systems and who knows what next.   Maybe the next one will be justly called a CRaP system. (Oops is that Customer Resource Planning?)  They have gotten way to BIG, way to complex, and way too expensive.  All we are trying to do is balance debits & credits, review a simple AR aging or create an invoice and collect payment.   It makes little sense to try to deploy systems that are failing all over the place.   Instead of simplification, they make them bigger and more complex.


Many of the major players in the ERP/CRM arena admit (privately) to poor documentation, lack of knowledge in their own systems (can't retain people) and inability to actually deliver a cost-effective solution in a reasonable time frame.  Instead of actually delivering a system that is stable and has longevity (thus determining a good life cycle and ROI), they just develop a 'new version' that replaces the old one, forcing companies to again invest in systems that never were deployed correctly in the first place. (The trade journals are full of examples!).  The software vendors deliver tools that allow changes to source code then cannot support the changes.   Companies are forced to make changes repeatedly, as each new  ‘release’ of the application package is delivered on a 12 to 18 month cycle; never having actually gotten to utilize or benefit from the first version!  Why not develop systems that are 'self tuning' to business rules of an organization?  Actually some of the systems are close but stop short of a true 'business rule' interface.  Of course, many companies don't have defined business rules in the first place; they just keep forging on, blind to any actual purpose or function.


These days, most projects scheduled to go more that 18 months are just doomed to fail (most in less time).  The deployment has gotten too complex.  Unless it is a Mars Mission or something equally dramatic and global in scope projects need to be parsed into components that each can produce and effective business solution in a timely manner.  The level of sophistication and integration in today’s ERP/CRM systems demand a well-defined business focus that is lacking in many multi-national and multi-faceted companies.  Diverse business interests are in direct opposition to ‘common business rules’ required to make an ERP/CRM system function for an entire corporation.  Companies are deploying these systems with e-Business web interfaces, browser connections when, internally, they can't integrate a simple Purchase Order or Invoice with their order entry system and integrated manufacturing/distribution systems!  It goes for financial, manufacturing, pharmaceutical or healthcare companies.  They haven't mastered the basics and they are trying to build a Mars Lander!


What we have here is a simple failure to present information in place of data.  Manageable content presented in an easily accessible and usable format to better enable business functionality across business units.  There used to be a simple rule in ‘data processing’ called the KISS Principle.  Somewhere along the way it has gotten lost in the jumble of ERP, CRM, CRP and other complex and almost impossible to maintain systems.  Maybe it’s time to return to those exciting days of yesteryear where simplicity, accessibility and ease of use are the goals and objectives of systems professionals.  KISS: Keep It Simple Stupid!


Updated Commentary - October 2016


The Tech industry, especially the program and development side has long forgotten the best principle for ever deploying any system: KISS. Yep, just Keep It Simple Stupid! Simple is easier to deploy, Simple is easier to train users, Simple is easier to maintain!


We took a bad turn some 30 years ago. Instead of developing 'smarter systems' the industry devolved into low level programming that is too complex for most humans to comprehend. We, instead, should have developed the foundation systems for early stage AI and integrate higher reasoning into systems so they could Understand some of the complexities of process engineering, systems and even accounting.


So many are still 'coding' when they should be integrating and designing. It is insane to actually write HTML code when there are tools/systems that will do it for you. Most tech interfaces are too complex, without standards for anyone to comprehend and because there Are NO STANDARDS, stuff changes constantly. You can't build business systems, or any other kind, on an unstable foundation yet companies continue to do so.


Companies and Tech has learned little to nothing over the past 30+ years. They keep writing useless code that is so corrupt and faulty it is easy to hack by kids in grade-school. There are few truly secure systems implemented or people who actually understand data/systems security.


Companies spend million$ to implement complex ERP systems then proceed to modify them and BREAK them so they can do 'business as usual' and keep things like they always have done. Why the hell did they spend millions if they continue to do the same inefficient, often idiotic, processes/procedures they purchased an ERP system to 'fix'?


I've pretty much given up hope of anyone truly understanding this perspective and moved on to more productive enterprise ventures. More fun and way less frustrating.


Mr. Stein is the President of Management Systems Consulting, Inc., a professional consulting firm based in Orlando, Florida.  In recent years, Mr. Stein has started new ventures in the Health & Wellness Industry, focusing on Health and Longevity!