The first session today was a discussion on the the ways for TOC software to work within traditional IT, and it was led by Eli Schragenheim, a long time member of the TOC community and principal in Goldratt Schools.
TOC and Traditional IT
TOC and Traditional ITwalked through some introductory descriptions of the general environment in which TOC finds itself with respect to IT. The main starting point is that we want very effective operations, run the TOC way, and that are synchronized with other parts of the business (namely Sales). In a business of any reasonable size, it is nearly impossible to manage operations and all the products and raw materials manually. It's also the case that IT is able to encode the procedures and terminology of any managerial approach. So it seems logical that we should look for IT to help support the TOC approach. However, most companies already have IT systems that manage the operations that we'd like to manage in the TOC way. People are generally resistant to replacing entire IT systems. And most (all) of the existing IT systems do not support the TOC approach. It seems the logical approach, given this information, is to somehow dive completely into existing systems or add-on to them in some way.
Schragenheim articulated three options, which were then discussed by the panel.
- Trick the existing system into following the TOC rules.
- Have the customer's IT group develop a custom add-on to the existing system.
- Purchase an add-on and integrate with the existing system.
Of course, there are benefits and drawbacks to each of these options, and that was the point of the discussion. Which is best? The first two options might be easier, but they tend to be more difficult and fragile than the final option. The biggest danger is that since, typically, the existing systems are quite complex (multi-level bills of material; routing that doesn't match the BOM), so the solution has to be complex just to work. And that is the opposite of the desired simple solution. On the other hand, outside solutions must be integrated into the existing solution, creating some of the same problems.
There was no formal conclusion, but the discussion was enlightening as there were a number of ideas and issues I had not yet considered in my thinking in this area.