by April 7, 2004 0 comments

Indian industry is on the upswing. The days of gloom seem to be finally over. Forget global opportunities. The long-promised middleclass revolution finally seems to be taking off, opening up huge opportunities in the domestic market. Many verticals that have IT as a key enabler are in the midst of major growth. Manufacturing, banking, insurance, telcom, all of them are busy enlarging their reach, offerings and customer bases, and are trying to leverage IT to the maximum extent possible. 

Organizations, out of necessity, have to build their IT applications over time. It is neither possible nor desirable to have it otherwise. And, it would never be the same person who would be designing the applications across time. Often, at the same point of time, there would be different drivers, departments and consultants building parallel and often complimentary applications. 

Unfortunately, more often than not, the collective approach is very much akin to that of the blind men who set out to describe the elephant (in case you have not heard of that, check out word-act-blindmen.html). You tend to see only that part of the whole that you are responsible for and forget that the rest of the organization exists. In all probability, you also ignore the fact that someone else has already built some other applications in your own area. You could also be forced into a similar situation because there is no documentation of existing systems and you are forced to start from scratch any way.

Whatever be the reason, the unfortunate truth is that this is the situation that exists with a large number of organizations in this country. The end result is the bank, whose one department will keep inviting customers to sign up for a credit card, while another will keep insisting that these same customers are not credit worthy. The end result is the telecom company that does not know that the customer has already applied for additional services, is yet to activate those services, and at the same time keeps making calls to sell the same services. 

For a country that is striving to be the IT implementer to the rest of the world, this is a very shameful state to be in. It cannot be that we are so lacking in the basic skills of application architecture. The more I talk to the people involved, the more I am convinced that we have the capabilities. What is missing, it seems, is the will to do it and the will (and definitely not the ability) to see the big picture.

Many years back, I set out to study to become a Civil Engineer. What I learnt then is very much valid for anyone wanting to architect enterprise applications today. First, you need to get your foundation right. And the rest of the superstructure needs to be conceived as a single whole and built on this foundation, though you may actually build in stages. Even if you have bought or inherited what someone else has built and want to modify it, you cannot ignore the foundation and the existing superstructure. That is the only way you can build a useful building that will stand the test of time. And, that is the only way you can build applications that will serve the organization well, over time.

Krishna Kumar

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