We had a situation like that where we were looking at two insurance systems that had to work together. And every time information was passed from one to the other there was a high probability of failure. We showed through complexity analysis that the problem was not how they were packaging the information or that one group was not dealing with the information correctly. The problem was that they shouldn't have been passing that information in the first place. If they slightly adjusted the functionality so the right system was doing the right analysis, the whole problem went away.
That's not uncommon. Now, of course, you'd like to do this with a new system, because the more you can reduce complexity in the first place the better long-term payback you're going to have.
NW: You're known to say IT is facing a meltdown. Explain.
Sessions: The meltdown I see is a complexity problem. Systems are getting larger and larger and they're already to the point where they have a very high probability of failure.
So we have a cycle. The cost of the system goes up, the cost of the failures goes up, and the chances of success drop. As the chances of success drop, the cost of the system goes up more. And as the cost of the system goes up more, the failure rate increases.
So, you have this cycle and you have to ask yourself, "How much money are we spending on failed IT systems before you can call it a meltdown?"
NW: Last question. Short of hiring your firm to come and solve the problem for mankind, any promising IT developments you see that would help address this?
Sessions: Well, there are lots of interesting ideas, like cloud, but unfortunately none address the kind of coarse-grained complexity issue that we're looking at. So, for somebody who's looking at taking on, let's say, a $10 million-plus system, short of hiring us to come in and help them pre-plan it, I guess my advice would be not to do it because the chances of being successful are just too low.
Figure out what you can do for under a million dollars, because you're better off getting something working for a million dollars than you are getting nothing working for $10 million.
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