I have been posting about "ERP for IT" for some years now. While I have been generally familiar with the history of ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) and its origins in MRP (Materials Resource Planning), my background is in the social sciences and software engineering - not operations research or industrial engineering.
The relationship of software development to industrial engineering has been uneasy. I believe that attempts to make software development more predictable through increased process rigor and measurement have been at best partially successful. Yes, software development can be treated as engineering. Is it always optimal to do so? That is the question.
However, this blog is not about software development per se; it is about large scale IT management as an industrial process.
If we isolate the particular problems of software requirements, design, and development from the broader concerns of the IT service lifecycle, we may find other areas more amenable to industrial theory. In particular, in the large IT organization, the forecasting and provisioning of base computing infrastructure (space, power, cooling, cabling, network, storage, CPU, RAM, & the stacks of commercial software products supporting functional applications) is a highly complex and critical set of concerns.
ITIL and ITSM have adequately stated the tactical concerns around operating such infrastructure. However, provisioning the IT infrastructure may consume tens or hundreds of mllions of dollars in capital budgets annually in the large IT organization. And it is my view that the acquisition and integration of complex hardware and software products and sub-assemblies into serviceable production infrastructure is directly comparable to manufacturing.
In fact, it *is* manufacturing in every sense, except the final disposition of the asssembled (manufactured) product. Instead of a sales pipeline, the computing infrastructure is placed into service in a data center where the higher order (and less deterministic) application lifecycle then comes into play.
The question for the large scale IT shop that finds itself in the manufacturing business: are you ready for the challege? How are you approaching demand forecasting? Manufacturing constraints? Process engineering? Metrics? Do you have an end to end view of the production line?
These are the questions I'm considering lately. My first pass through "ERP for IT" was "evocative and provocative" as I stated in my book. It's time for a second more detailed reading of where operations theory and industrial engineering intersect with the particular problems of running the largest IT capabilities.
I have started by re-reading The Goal, and now going through core operations management texts, including all source material I can find on the origin of Materials Resource Planning.