Radically Simple IT with Dr. David Upton


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We were extremely fortunate to have Dr. David Upton, chair in Operations Management at Oxford University, kick off our first ever Open Your World forum. Dr. Upton's presentation, entitled "Radically Simple IT ... or, a Strategic Argument for Open Source in Business" was a highly relevant and insightful commentary on how open source principles can help business leaders transform how they approach and engage the more traditional strategic planning process.

Dr. Upton's talk started with his observation that a large number of today's CEO's and CIO's are unsettled by the emergence of a different way to approach their IT strategies. However, traditional approaches aren't really working either. In fact, Upton asserts that  blind adherence to traditional ideas and models of strategic planning have derailed many businesses from what they should be doing with their IT strategies.

Many complain that their businesses are saddled with legacy systems. They should be more concerned about being saddled with legacy thinking. In fact, most companies follow strategic processes that were born out of military strategies; most notably, the "ends-ways-means" model described by Upton in his talk.

So what can informed and innovative business leaders do about this? Upton believes they should first shift their focus from short-term to long-term planning.  This has become a challenge in today's market, where the median tenure of CEO's of publicly-traded companies has dropped from 20 years to 5 years over the past 2 decades.  However, short-term decision making is detrimental to long-term business success.

Second, Upton advises business leaders to look beyond the flashy "strategic leap" model of performance improvement and consider an "incremental improvement" approach. His talk effectively outlines the pros and cons of each.

To hear Dr. Upton's specific advice for designing for improvement, including his definition of improvable systems and the necessity of open source thinking to bring them to life, listen to his archived talk. For more information, you can also download his presentation slides.

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1 Comment

Michael Tiemann's picture
Open Source Evangelist

Let's not forget the HBR article that gave this presentation its name:

http://hbr.org/2008/03/radically-simple-it/ar/1

In 2009 it was the #4 most emailed HBR article ever, and the #1 most emailed HBR article covering the subject of IT.

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