Last night, during a health informatics lecture, I described the remarkable rigidities in an intersecting set of vertical software systems I know well. Some of the applications are older than the younger students, others are just maturing. They're all strung together by a rickety set of interfaces and interdependencies; even routine data configuration is problematic. It's an interlocking and rigid system of brittleware. When business conditions change, brittleware breaks.
That's not unusual. We see it even on solitary desktop applications. PowerPoint 2007 is clearly senile; it needs a long cruise on a railing-free ship. Brittleware is everywhere.
Problem is, the world changes. Of course that's not new; the 20th century was packed with change. For most of that time, however, we used people and paper. People and paper are relatively easy to change. Even hardware is easy to change. Software though, software is hard.
So what impact does rigid software have on the ability of businesses to adopt to changing conditions? Does it become a true impediment to adaptation?