Photo appears courtesy of Dawn. This blog was written by Art Douglas, a member of the EDI Alliance. What is the opposite of "KISS"? The answer of course, is Rube Goldberg. For those of you who have no idea what I just posited, allow me to explain. "KISS" is an acronym for Keep It Simple, Stupid. Now if you are sensitive, please don’t get uncomfortable about the "Stupid" part. It merely allows us to use "KISS," thereby making it memorable. If you prefer, think of it as Keep It Super Simple. Rube Goldberg was a cartoonist who delighted readers by drawing overly-complicated mechanical machines that accomplished simple tasks. Think Mousetrap game.
As an EDI consultant, I sometimes find elegantly simple architecture, with names that are descriptive, processes that make sense, and sometimes even comments that explain what is going on. Love it when that happens. However, more often I find what looks like Rube Goldberg had a hand in the development of a complex solution.
My current client has thousands of files that go into and out of their systems. These files all contain sensitive data which can be moved securely and efficiently using methods like SFTP or ASx, yet major vendors are using email notification, securely emailed passwords, etc. What happens if the person you send the email to is no longer with the firm, or out on leave? Aha, you send the emails to the workgroup! Which person in the group will manually transfer the data? You’ll need an email response. If you don’t get a response, then what?
So, we are building a database listing every file we transfer, both as a skeleton telling us what the type of data, the trading partner, the file naming convention, frequency, type data connection, etc., and the actual log of the file transfer. This is in addition to the logging provided by our E-Commerce Suite. Even manually acquired data is logged – manually – until we convince those trading partners to automate.
By going through the exercise of building this database, we are uncovering Rube Goldberg type data flows and processes that we are able to document and simplify in-house. And we’re creating a place where developers can go to find answers to questions like “When did we receive the last XYZ file?” or “Where is the GILF file being written?”
Here are some suggestions for Keeping It Simple:
- Develop naming conventions – and stick with them. Use them for programs, files, folders, servers, etc.
- Develop reusable software pieces that accomplish single tasks, like log the reception of a file.
- Develop forms for communicating standard information like trading partner information, and file transfer information.
- Make sure you have management buy-in from I.T. as well as your business customers.
- Remember that Rome wasn’t built in a day. Remember that a kiss is nice, but a rewarding relationship requires many kisses over time.
- If there is not a way to get around a complex design, document everything.
Best of luck to you. And remember, Keep It Super Simple!