Software and the Complexity Excuse

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Post by: Sigurd Rinde

I am a bit fed up with the (mis)use of the term ‘complex’ as an excuse for not doing the right thing.

Especially in Enterprise Software: Costs, implementation times and unwillingness to make me something bespoke – “it’s because enterprise is so complex”.

Bollocks to that I say. Stop saying that, it’s not smart.

Nothing is complex, we only think it’s complex:

We human beings cannot experience the world directly, we can only grasp it through “abstractions”.

To understand reality, to grasp, we need to have a model in our heads or on our computers. 

When we perceive complexity we cannot know if reality is complex, the only thing we know for sure is that the current model of understanding that reality is complex.

Then add the fact, like in science, that every model is wrong, they simply work for now while waiting to be disproven, then replaced by a better one.

The models used to understand and model enterprise have not changed much over thousands of years. If that had a parallel in science, not even Galileo’s reality models would have had an impact. Not to talk about Newton’s, Einstein’s, Bohr’s…

And by the way, the most ancient of those, Galileo’s reality models, is even younger than double-entry book keeping, the most modern part of the enterprise model!

In science the earth is no more the center of the universe, in enterprise software double-entry book keeping is. Just ask any ERP developer.

Complexity arises when the model does not fit any more. All of the above scientists replaced some former model and hence simplified things.

If only enterprise and software folks could be more like scientists and wake up every morning wondering what new model they could try out instead of giving up even before hitting the coffee by uttering “it’s so complex”!

Says Hugh, and he’s spot on. 

So next time you hear an Enterprise Software vendor say “ah yes, it’s so complex” when defending high prices, long implementation times, delays and regrets that nothing can be changed – you shall simply call them on that and state: “Then you’re using the wrong model!”.

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