On one hand, if your target architecture and transition plans are inaccurate, then you are leading your organization down the wrong business and IT path. One the other hand, if your architecture is not timely, then you are serving up outdated plans and strategy to the organization to no avail.
The Wall Street Journal, 12 November 2008, has an interesting article on an innovative Google “Flu-Bug Tracker” that I think sheds some light on this issue.
Google has a free web service at www.google.org/flutrends that “uses computers to crunch millions of Internet searches people make for keywords that might be related to the flu—for instance ‘cough’ or ‘fever’. It displays the results on a map of the U.S. and shows a chart of changes in flu activity around the country.”
The Google Flu Trend data is meaningful because of strong correlation found between those searching flu related keywords and those actually coming down with the flu as reported by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) one to two weeks later.
“In any given year, between 5% and 20% of Americans catch the flu.”
By getting advance warning of flu trends out to CDC and the public, Google may help provide an early warning for outbreaks. “For epidemiologists, this is an exciting development, because early detection of a disease outbreak can reduce the number of people affected. If a new strain of influenza virus emerges under certain conditions, a pandemic could emerge and cause millions of deaths (as happened, for example, in 1918).” (http://www.google.org/about/flutrends/how.html)
So speed of information is crucial here to early warning—helping people and saving lives. However, the Google Flu Trend information, based on tracking keyword searches, is not as accurate as capturing actual cases of the flu confirmed by laboratory testing.
So like with enterprise architecture, you have a trade-off between speed and accuracy.
With the Flu Trends data, “what they lose in accuracy, the site may make up in speed…reducing that time is crucial for combating influenza, which can manifest itself one to three days after a person comes into contact with the virus.”
Ms. Finelli of the CDC stated: “If you get data that’s not very timely one or two weeks old, it’s possible that the outbreak has already peaked.”
So is there a lesson here for enterprise architects?
Speed and agility is crucial in the making valuable decisions for the organizations in the marketplace, as it is in helping people in their healthcare. Trying to get all or completely accurate information to do an enterprise architecture or strategic plan is like trying to get 100% confirmed cases of the flu—if you wait until you have complete and perfect information, it will be too late to respond effectively.
It’s sort of like the adage “analysis paralysis”—if you keep analyzing and mulling over the data never making a decision, you are essentially paralyzed into non-action.
So it is crucial to get good-enough data that allows you to extrapolate and make decisions that are timely and effective. Of course, you can always course correct as you get more and better information and you get a clearer picture. But don’t wait till everyone in the enterprise has a confirmed case of the proverbial flu to start taking reasonable action.