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Simplifying Organizations November 10, 2008

Posted by Jeremy in Business, Business Solutions, Development Process, Efficiency Process, Efficient Technologies.
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I recently finished reading a book called Simple Architectures for Complex Enterprises by Roger Sessions.  The book is about building architectures that are simple instead of overly complicated.  

System Complication

Organizations and business models are very complicated.  Add on regulation, best practices, trade secrets, etc and the business processes can be very difficult to utilize.  Many times these complicated systems cause issues for the businesses because employees can get lost in the details.  It also can make it extremely difficult to train new employees.  This causes a real problem should one of the employees go on long-term disability, maternity leave, or worse yet to the competitor.  Many times it is not a scenario where a temporary or new employee can just step right in and take over.

The other issue is that if the employee were to forget a step or not do it correctly it can really cause issues for your business.  Sometimes it may be as simple as having to fix the mistake but other times it could result in regulatory or even legal issues. 

Frameworks

All of the issues raised above and many more cause the need for frameworks.  A framework is structure that is put in place in order to standardize and simplify a process or set of processes.  In many organizations, there are many frameworks in place:  network frameworks, software frameworks, process frameworks, etc.  By utilizing properly designed frameworks employees should be able to do their jobs more quickly and efficiently in a very standardized way.  This will make the organization much more efficient overall.

Framework Issues

Many organizations have become very framework adverse.  This is due to the fact that they have invested a lot of money and time into frameworks and not seen the corresponding results.  Many times this is due to the fact that the framework has become way too complicated.  The book I described earlier has the following quote in it:

The paradox about complexity is that it is simple to make systems complex; it is complex to make systems simple.  Many people think that it takes a lot of talent to create a highly complicated architecture.  That  isn’t true.  It takes a lot of talent to take complicated ideas and realize them in a simple architecture.

I believe that this is absolutely true.  In many cases the frameworks try to handle the complexity of all the business without ever taking into account that the point is make it simpler and more efficient to use.  Instead they have only focused on handling all the business complexity in a single place.  In the end, the framework has cost the business quite a bit of money and has not made them more efficient and possibly made it harder to get things done.

Simplifying Frameworks

In order to make frameworks really help businesses they must be simple to use.  For this to happen the person creating them must focus on simplicity while also solving the problem.  This can be a very difficult thing to do.  Another quote from Session’s book says:

Anybody can create a complex architecture.  It takes no skill at all.  Architectures naturally seek the maximum possible level of complexity all on their own. 

It goes on to say:

The observation that architecture are naturally attracted to complexity is actually predicted by physics – in particular, the law of entropy.

All of this to say that it is natural for frameworks to become more complicated and chaotic if someone doesn’t focus on keeping them reigned in.  This is the job of the architect.  It is by far the hardest job that architect has.  As stated earlier, it is quite complicated to keep the frameworks simple to use.

Summarizing

I hope that this article wasn’t too techie or high level.  I found Mr. Sessions’ book to be very interesting and should serve as a reminder to follow the KISS theory when building frameworks.  Frameworks can have a significant impact on organizations in terms of business efficiency.  On the other hand, if not properly handled they can actually have the opposite effect or making businesses less efficient.

Do you have frameworks in place to make yourself more efficient?  If so, can you make them simpler?  If you don’t have them, are there ways to create them to make your business simpler?

Let me know if I can help you with creation or simplification of frameworks.