Balancing Today with Tomorrow

Written on August 25th, 2010 by

I have spent the past six months trying to learn to balance today with tomorrow from an IT perspective. Today is about providing solutions to problems one has today. Tomorrow is about solving problems one will have in the future given their current situation and direction.┬áThe purpose of IT is to support business. While IT for IT’s sake is fun, it does not provide real value. Aligning IT to solve business problems is key to success. When business has an idea for a great new product, they need a solution to implement the product. By spending large amounts of time implementing the perfect solution which is robust, but easily adaptable to any direction the product may go, the business may miss out on its opportunity to capitalize on the full potential of the product. However, implementing the quickest solution to get to market as fast as possible can leave the product unable to adapt as customers begin to request new features. Balancing these two sides is key to the success of IT.

My company is very oriented towards today. They want a solution as soon as possible. Cleaning up the aftermath is left for tomorrow. The problem is tomorrow quickly becomes today and new problems need solutions implemented. Too often, no time is left to prepare for tomorrow. Frequently, we find ourselves wasting time today because all we thought about yesterday was yesterday’s problem. One example is the vast quantity of processes we have today with their own implementation to FTP files. FTPing a file is a fairly simple process and easy to implement. As a result, any time we needed to FTP file, we implemented it for our specific situation. As a result, we have never created a generalized process for FTPing files. Implementing a new specific solution always seemed easier than trying to make something more general and reusable. However, when looking back, we would have been better off creating a generic process to FTP files and reusing it as necessary than implementing one for each specific situation.

As a counter to my company’s constant band-aid on top of a band-aid approach, I repeatedly voice a need for general solutions which can be reused. However, it is not uncommon for me to find myself in a situation where there simply is not enough time to develop a generic application over a specialized application. Sometimes, we simply do not understand the domain well enough to generalize. If we tried, we would likely spend a lot of time creating a process that really is not reusable. As a result, we would need to spend more time reworking it later.

The result is we need a mixture of today and tomorrow. When time is of the essence, we need to create a solution that meets the requirements. That being said, we also want the application to be designed to be easily changed down the road. Then, as additional requirements develop, we modify the original application to meet the expanded scenarios. The result is something akin to agile software development practices. The key is to allow time to refactor the original application. If the requirements are moderately different early on, it may be more work to adopt a common approach. However, as the area matures, the small time spent upfront will begin to be returned. Fortunately, the time spent at the beginning of the process is not too great to warrant a large risk of wasted time if the product flounders. In essence, we need to meet today’s problems by adapting yesterday’s solutions to be prepared for tomorrow.

2 Responses to “Balancing Today with Tomorrow”

Charles Chickering on

I deal with this nearly every day. I keep telling my company if you don’t have time to do it right you must have time to do it over.

We Don’t Do Software « Marshmallow's Wisdom on

[…] Current applications need modified. New applications need developed. All the while, we use yesterday’s practices because we do not have extra time to learn modern […]

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