Simplicity wins and Pain gains!

May 30, 2019 by Mohit Doshi

Life lessons are full of oxymoronic idioms. For every “Keep It Simple, Stupid,” we have “No Pain, No Gain” idiom. Management of Enterprise IT Portfolios is no different!

Where Simplicity Wins
How often do we find ourselves over-engineering our visualizations? Several years ago, as a consultant, I was stumped when my engagement manager wanted all our charts in black and white and unidimensional! Our primary stakeholder, CIO of the bank, felt a visual had to be simple and easy to follow, devoid of any distractions as she was so short on time! Lesson #2 – I was working on a deck where the Chief Strategist on our team said, “No more Pie Charts! Only Bar Charts! Bars are easier to follow than a Wedge!” In the world of data-driven portfolios, we often lose sight of this. We search for “richer” visualizations that end up being sophisticated alternatives to simpler metaphors. Examples:

  • Bar vs. Pie
  • Bar vs. Treemap
  • Stacked Chart vs. Nested Treemap
  • Series Chart vs. Radar Spider Charts
  • 4 Quadrant Bubble Chart vs. Circular Radar Maps with just 4 quadrants

Enterprise Architects such as myself often get carried away with the coolness and esoteric nature of a graphic like rare metal-earth!

Epic! Got invited to a Board Meeting
So let’s assume we are called into a board meeting and we have to pick one of two decks to present:

  • Deck One: Pie, Nested TreeMap, Radar Spider, Circular Radar
  • Deck Two: Bar, Stack, Series, and Bubble

Which one would you pick? Worse still, what if the chairman of the board asks “What is this chart called?” and we answer “Radar Spider” :-). There is something deeply flawed if we have to rely on a cool, rarity factor of our visual metaphor to enhance the value perception of our insight. While we support all the “Deck One” metaphors in EOS ITPM 😉 we guide our clients to aim for simplicty keeping in mind their business customer.

Some gains are worth the pains
Excel is so easy. I can cut and paste, type whatever I want, drag and drop, and the list goes on. And Excel makes it so easy to generate charts. To the point that there is a whole industry now offering SaaS solutions around Sheets (Excel on super, uber vitamins). Even the storied Wall Street Journal has acknowledged the prowess  of Excel

To give respect where it’s due, Excel is an amazing, iconic tool, and its simplicity is unmatched. Numerous articles have been published on the cons of excel, such as hard to manage, secure, lack of data integrity, and comparisons with Swiss Army Knife. We feel there are subtler nuances.

Visual Consistency
In a data-driven enterprise architecture and portfolio world, where business and IT leaders collaborate together in agile workstreams, it is essential to have consistent views of data such as the business fit vs. technical fit bubble chart. This applies to many “reporting” services-oriented approaches where the user updating data (via a form) and user viewing data (via a dashboard) are looking at two different views of data if the chart relies on overnight refreshes. Such approaches defeat the purpose of Excel alternatives.

Data democratization
A robust application portfolio will have several users with different personas updating data. However, this does not mean merely “putting Excel on Box” and start to share, or a similar “Excel-like SaaS” approaches. Data democratization requires being able to manage who can view, edit, report on any slice of the same data set right down to the cell level with robust auditing and security capabilities. Defining numerous “types” of (Excel) Sheets defeats that purpose. They might be “Easy on the Eye” but a bit like “Pie in the Sky” when it comes to supporting a large number of personas across different slices of same data set.

Governance is the antonym for Social Collaboration; it’s not as if two cannot co-exist. A purely collaborative solution makes it “easy” to simply “invite” anyone to update data as long as they are authenticated. However, anything of perceived value will require guardrails, in which case the business rules defined in the system govern who can access and update data across your portfolios. Whereas collaboration in the social is via likes and invites, guided collaboration is orchestrated via workflows, alerts, approvals, rejections (Unfortunately), and notifications.

In EOS ITPM, we strive to maintain a happy medium between governance and collaboration, simplicity and pertinency and off course, coolness and awesomeness of our user experience:-). We support workflows, alerts, notifications, likes, tags, but all contextualized into an immersive experience that provides a happy balance between Pains with Gains that Keep it Simple 🙂 Check in with us!