Saturday, August 27, 2011

Revolutions and Information Systems

The past ten years have provided us with several revolutions that have made it easier for us to understand the multiple stages of a revolution and the judgment of the degree of success of each revolution.  It started with Afghanistan with the toppling of Taliban.  Shortly after that, the Iraqi regime was toppled.  After that and quite recently, the whole Arab world has started with their revolutions.   As we speak today, we have witnessed the fall of three Arabic regimes (not including Iraq), the continuation of the revolution in a number of Arab countries and the failure of it in several others.  Doing a simple comparison, we can see a close relationship between revolutions and Information Systems.

In any respectful organization, the beating heart will be its core Information System.  In such an organization, the Information System, once is established, is difficult to replace without following the same stages of a revolution.  The first stage of both is the pregnancy stage.  This is where the initial group of people develop their understanding of what is wrong with the current political/information system and suggest a corrective action. 

The second stage is “giving birth” to the idea by staging demonstrations against the political systems and trying to get people on board in the case of information systems.  At this stage, the common public joins the demonstration and in the case of information systems, this will usually reach to mid management being convinced in the upgrade. 

Third and Fourth stage are interchangeable.  One is where the revolution gets support from external bodies.  This can be military, such as the case with Iraq and recently Libya, or political such as the case with Egypt.  This will map to higher management agreeing to the upgrade in Information Systems.  The second is when the current political system starts to lose its members to the revolution.  In comparison with Information Systems, this stage is depicted by the supporting team of the current core system place their focus on the new upgrade and one by one start abandoning the current system.

The fifth stage, and the stage of “no return”, is when the army defects the current political system.  In the past revolutions, we have had examples of the army joining ranks with the revolution and others where the army abandoned the political system (both by choice and force).  This is exemplified by setting the interfaces to the upgraded system.  Usually, in the case of Information Systems, this is where the main interface switches to the upgraded system.  In certain cases, the new core will have an upgrade that may replace a number of interfaces.  If this stage was successful you will know that the revolution was successful and as the case with Information Systems, it will take time for the new Political System to establish itself.

We have had multiple failed revolutions and, by looking at the set stages above, it is easy to define where they failed.  In the case of Saudi Arabia (The Revolution of Hunain), failure was at the second stage and that is to get the public’s support.  As for Bahrain, the revolution succeeded in gaining Bahraini pubic support, however, it failed to gain support from Bahraini officials and was attached by external forces.  Egypt managed to cross all stages (starting from stage two) in a very short period while in Libya it spanned the period of 6 months.  As mentioned above, we have had many examples from the Arab world of successful and failed revolutions, of which the transition between the different stages is clear.

I could easily tie between revolutions and Information System migrations as a result of my background.  Both start their pregnancy with the idea, and move to gain support from the directly impacted.  The next stage is gaining support from the visionaries and those supporting the current system.  The next stage is the defection of the systems main life line.  Once this happens, the current system starts to resign and tries to set an exit policy for itself.  

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