It's a problem that haunts all types of technology. If you want information about a system you'd better be prepared to search for it.
This is the problem being targeted by the founders of Startmate incubatee ScriptRock; an application used to document how a system is configured and verify it works as expected.
It was founded by Michael Baukes, Alan Sharp-Paul and Leo Venegas, who for over a decade have all worn a variety of hats while working for large corporates, including contractor, consultant, developer and manager hats.
Their speciality is in large system overhaul and system architecture projects, which meant the trio's paths intertwined over the years. Baukes said that even in corporations with 140,000 employees, they would consistently encounter the same problem: knowledge was always hidden.
"All of us have been at some point been in the trenches," Baukes said. "One thing we always saw was that knowledge stored inside an organisation is really hard to get access to, a lot of it is stored in people's heads.
"You spend 80 per cent to 90 per cent of the time trying to figure out what you've got, what's changed; that's true for the majority of projects. For architects or people trying to design or enhance systems, they spend 50 to 60 per cent of the time trying to find out what they've got."
It inspired the trio to develop ScriptRock, so companies could know exactly what their system looks like and whether it works as intended.
ScriptRock captures details about how a particular system is configured, contributed by IT staff, developers, system administrators, change managers, testers, etc. ScriptRock then creates executable tests that confirm the application or system is configured correctly. This is usually performed before or after system state changes, or during troubleshooting to quickly pinpoint misconfigurations.
It replaces the old method of dumping all the information into a Word document or a corporate wiki, which Baukes said is often outdated and has conflicted accounts.
Once IT shops have an idea of what their systems look like, they can make more informed decisions, he said, and make these decisions quicker.
"You actually free yourself up to do stuff in a more constructive fashion," he said. "It's about empowering people to understand, having good conversations with the business people, then start thinking about how to source services from other places.
"What is the smartest way for us to do it, what is the most cost effective."
"Once the mentality is shifting, now we can look at sourcing a faster way for us. Once we've unlocked that, it's very valuable. It gives us the opportunity to have the same capability levels but to move very fast.
"Agile business becomes faster and faster and have good people on their systems that can execute quickly."
Baukes said ScriptRock is already being trialled by several large companies, including one of the big four banks.
It's solving a real-world problem and the executable test is a meaningful action that can be easily measured.
It's a hard product to articulate (and sell) because it affects so many people. Traditionally, there is a very long lead time to sell into enterprise, and this is significantly harder for a start-up.
With companies moving to the cloud and BYO devices, the founders will need greater certainty that their applications will perform reliably in different scenarios. Enterprise customers would pay handsomely to solve this problem.
A major vendor could release a similar application, which would make it harder for ScriptRock to compete. Also, some workers might feel threatened by a system that extracts all their unique knowledge about a system.
This start-up has all the right elements. There are three founders, which gives the business a range of perspectives, while all of the founders still have a shared vision because they've worked in the corporate sector and identified the weaknesses of the current model. The value of the application can be easily measured, a key requirement for corporations. Then there's the fact that the founders have decades of experience in the IT sector and are backed by incubator Startmate.