Don’t Invent, Implement!

If the Times newspaper is to be believed it would appear the sun is beginning to set on the Dubai property bubble. Dubai World, the developers of the frankly breathtaking but rather arrogant Palm Jumeirah, a luxury development in the shape of a Palm, are reportedly in massive financial trouble. The Times reports they are in discussions with the Dubai government and hoping to suspend their debt repayments.The Palm Jumeirah concept is simple. Take a country that is fundamentally a large beach, create a better man-made beach, then sell beach houses to millionaires. It’s a purists dream, better than the original. In reality though it’s complete madness.Those of us that work in IT will see some similarities. During the heady boom days, any public sector IT consultant was laughed out of the board room if their project wasn’t bigger and better than the last. From the NHS database to the Child Support Agencies “unfit for purpose” CS2 system, we can all think of the resulting grotesque projects that have spiralled out of control as a result.However, IT projects costing the earth aren’t just the preserve of the public service. Recently I have been talking to a number of small businesses who have been counting the cost of implementing difficult projects. The common factor however is the belief that reinventing the wheel is a winning strategy. Like the Palm Jumeirah the sponsors usually have a few loose screws.IT in this austere age has a new set of challenges. There have always been cost pressures, but in 2010 IT solutions need to improve both productivity and alignment with the rest of the business. This is a significant challenge. Keeping the cost down but improving efficiency for the whole of the business is no easy task.To achieve this I believe there are two rules:Align IT priorities with business strategies.Implement don’t invent.Point one is simple, if your IT strategy is stopping you from delivering your business goals then it’s fit for one place, the bin. Don’t be afraid to change your mind. It’s better to stop and change direction than to carry on regardless; IT should be a business enabler, not a barrier to progress.Point two is harder to comprehend, especially for larger businesses. We all love to innovate, however IT is becoming a commodity industry. Why reinvent what is already out there? Innovation costs money so be innovative in your industry sector, not in the tools running the business. While buying a solution may seem to tick only three of your four requirements the speed of implementation is generally significantly quicker than doing it yourself. Whatever figures the technical team conjure up, the cost is likely to be less too. Using the age old equation of time = money, this strategy makes sense.Incidentally it’s worth remembering it costs $4bn a year to run Google. The NHS database, which is fundamentally just an index service, is 4 years late and has so far been estimated to have cost up to $40bn.Grand designs, done yourself may seem like a great idea. However, like the Palm Jumeirah, unless you execute in meticulous fashion or have unlimited resource, this strategy is likely to be suicidal.