I need to know now!

One of the things I hear too often, when I talk with clients about disappointing efforts to implement Operations Management, Operational Intelligence or Business Intelligence systems, is how the importance of immediate access to information was missed when the system was designed. The user is expected to click down through several screens, enter several obscure parameters and then WAIT sometimes for 5, 10, 15 or 20 minutes! If waiting is not bad enough, by the time you get the information it is old! The software team decided it was too difficult to figure out how to keep the system running, and give users access to current information, so they compromised. Users can’t afford to be idle while they wait for information, so instead they walk out to the line / floor / wherever the real business is being done, and ask. So what was the point of all that IT? They might as well have given the money to a worthy charity!

Interestingly, requiring speed of response — often called latency — to be less than a few seconds would fix this, and yet I have rarely seen it listed in system requirements. I’m not sure why. Do users assume that information will be immediately available? Do they not want to seem naive by stating the obvious? Or do they feel asking for instant information is too demanding, and don’t want to be seen as prima donnas? I don’t know, but forgetting to require it cripples so many IT systems. Once it’s been missed, you can’t put it back in later, because speed of response is one of those requirements that drives fundamental system architecture decisions.

I suspect one of the reasons might be that users don’t want to ask for things they fear might not be possible. As I said in a previous post don’t do that! It’s your place to say what your business needs! It’s your software vendor’s job to figure out how to deliver it, or to tell you if they can’t. In these days of Google, Facebook and all the other instant information services, you know as well as I do that they probably can.