Metaphors are dangerous. A talented thinker once even stated that “using a metaphor is like carrying water in a bucket with a hole in it; there is a limit to where it will take you”. But anyway, the link between my earlier pleas for a more careful approach to technology (‘Slow IT’) and Slow Food is stronger than just a metaphor.
After all, the Slow Food movement started in Italy as a reaction to a quickly degrading food culture in which more and more of the taste and experience was sacrificed on the holy altar of Agitated Speed. When a McDonalds restaurant was even opened at the Piazza Di Spagna in Rome, it was the last drop that made the cup run over (good metaphor, yes). Carlo Petrini founded the Slow Food movement and even made it to one of the Time Magazine 2004 heroes, just because he promotes the love for original food that is prepared and tasted with the time and attention it deserves.
Seems that the current approach to IT is ready for some tender loving care as well. Especially in this period of downturn, the anxiety for short-term patches may drive us in the arms of hasty solutions that only partially satisfy. Then they will leave the organisation hungrier and unhealthier than it ever was. Proper timing and focus can help us to rediscover what value we actually want to deliver through technology and what foundation we need to achieve that.
David Sprott, the well-respected founder of CBDI forum (“a think tank specializing in practices for SOA and architecture led software delivery and management”), recognises this too. He makes a good analysis of why doing things right – in Slow IT style – is necessary in an industry in which offshoring, agile development and Web 2.0 are promising, but all too often hysterically abused tools. He doubts however that organisations will be ready for Slow IT, as he sees many of them already ‘slowing down’ in terms of cutting budgets, reducing headcount and – in general – doing more with less. The emphasis is now on quick, effective results and advocating more ‘slow,’ he says, nowadays seems a bit like turkeys voting for Christmas.
Not sure I agree there, as David seems to make the common mistake after all of associating ‘slow’ with doing things at a snail’s pace, doing less or doing nothing at all. Remember: it is all about proper timing and focus. Eating Slow Food does not mean waiting for hours until the waiter arrives or the first course is served. Chef Ferran Adrià of Spanish El Bulli – the best and most innovative restaurant in the world – may use nitrogen to shock-freeze some of his dishes in a second and then have them served instantaneously, but some of the ingredients may have been cooking for hours or even days. And Adriá will spend several months every year in his Barcelona laboratory to carefully design and try new dishes. When he opens his restaurant again in spring, the waiting lists have piled up like nothing else in the world.
David suggests that the current IT climate will benefit much more from ‘repeatable, reusable and rapid’ solutions. This sounds a bit like Wok cooking indeed, but if you take a good look at CBDI’s background – which is in systematic, architectural component thinking – you realise that David actually makes a plea for carefully crafting a foundation for continuous change.
To me, that is Slow IT. You deliver the fancy shock-freeze experience but have your pots and pans simmering on the fire for hours as well. Even turkeys would probably vote for that (metaphorically speaking).