What if a quilt were made of 100 pieces by 100 people, each with her/his own ideas and scrap material? The result might be interesting or just crazy. Any person assembling the quilt would be challenged to make it balanced and aesthetic, although most would recognize it as a quilt. The French word for this, which we have adopted, is pastiche. Pastiche has a mess of synonyms: mimicry, mess, mishmash, hodgepodge, jumble, kludge, … Fortunately, the design of a quilt seldom disrupts its function, which is longstanding: Look good and keep people warm with two layers of cloth sandwiching a matted core and stitched with strong thread. The result would be different if some of the piece workers decided to use aluminum foil or cellophane or glue.
Even if you have never touched a quilt, the lesson is vivid: Every common effort needs the organizing principles of tradition, architecture, and leadership. For reliable results, every project needs good management. For business information systems, where tradition is scarce, architecture spotty, and leadership unschooled, there are additional confounding forces: misguided word-of-mouth (old spouse’s tales?) and the self-serving pander of marketers. Consequently, few information systems survive the first wash, most are ugly, and there are lots of businesses shivering in the cold.
The path to business success rests on good information, so here are a few guidelines: Document your objectives, set goals, architect an integrated solution, manage projects, measure the results, and repeat this process. Your materials are information, thought, design, and management; the quality of these will determine your success.