The Black box of IT


To most people, their company’s IT department is a black box. This is especially true of complex systems development settings in large corporations, where hundreds and even thousands of IT specialists work together to serve the organization.

I call it a black box in terms of mystery and complexity. Those outside the department probably don’t know what happens within IT’s walls, nor do they have a clear understanding of how it impacts their day-to-day work. What they do know is that the product that they so desperately need is often delivered past its deadline and that IT continually asks for additional resources to manage that mystery and complexity.

This collision of demands results in frustration, internal hostility, and an unproductive environment. What needs to be done is to remove the mystery and open up the dialogue in a way that strategically aligns the business and IT development organizations, and which creates a common focus on prioritizing efforts and improving IT development performance.

Over the years, my team and I have researched hundreds of IT disciplines, we have reviewed academic research and best practices and applied empirical studies in causal thinking. We worked hard to identify the individual factors that lead to high performance in IT development. All that research has led to the creation of Nucleon™, a formula that gives you a performance number and shows the optimal way to improve your IT development capacity.

Nucleon illuminates the black box of IT. It provides a way to focus on the causal effects and performance drivers in application development by using mathematics to calculate the power of a development team. It also identifies areas that, when optimized, will provide the best possible results, according to best practices research.

Why did we name the formula Nucleon? The word “Nucleon” means “a unit of power”. The Nucleon formula is a key performance indicator for an IT development team. Nucleon’s calculations are to an IT development team what the horsepower measure is to a car. The Nucleon formula calculates an assessment number with prioritized areas of suggested improvements and their performance implications.

They say there is nothing new under the sun, and the components of Nucleon are well known to our IT department, but I have yet to come across either an individual or an organization that has done what Nucleon can do — to calculate a task-independent performance number for a development team or organization.

I developed the Nucleon formula because I wanted a consistent tool that would indicate how much development power a team or a company has. For me, the Nucleon calculation is just as relevant as the price-to-earnings ratio (P/E) or return on investment (ROI) and perhaps even more so, as the IT development department determines most companies’ future success.

Wouldn’t it be nice to have a single relevant and precise number for a team’s performance, a number you could compare to other teams in your organization, or a number that one company could compare to another company? Wouldn’t you like to know how much IT development power HSBC has under the hood compared to JP Morgan Chase? Is it not relevant for shareholders to know the IT development power of a company whose success largely derives from its ability to develop competitive IT solutions?

Shouldn’t we be able to see what affects our ability to generate valuable IT solutions even more than how we can generate cash?

In the Nucleon formula, having great people on your development team increases your performance score, while a poor organization and/or a highly complex IT environment reduces it. All elements in the formula are based on best practices and their performance implications.

In subsequent blogs I’ll cover the formula’s elements — peopleorganization and complexity— in more detail.

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In the book Nucleon, Jeppe Hedaa introduces the first formula to measure the factors that hold back an organization’s IT performance, along with the most impactful areas for improvement.

Justine Welby
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