How Rubik’s Cube inspires both Windows 8 and ERP implementations

By Frans Hoogenraad, Senior consultant and Solution architect AX at HSO.   Ever realized where the Windows 8 tiles come from? Indeed, 40 years ago, Professor Ern? Rubik invented the worldfamous Cube, which was very popular in the eighties.

By Frans Hoogenraad, Senior consultant and Solution architect AX at HSO.

Ever realized where the Windows 8 tiles come from? Indeed, 40 years ago, Professor Ern? Rubik invented the worldfamous Cube, which was very popular in the eighties.

With the cheerfully coloured square faces of the Windows tiles, Windows 8 seems to be inspired directly by the cube; even the way the layers of the cubes are turned, revives in the tilting of the tiles in the Metro/Retro design.

How many possible states did this cube have (1000? 10,000? 100,000?), and weren’t there all types of formulas that we learned by heart, to move a block from mid left to mid top?

The formula is “Front Top Top Rightback…” and some more. I still have the booklet, and the cube still rotates, but some powder falls out of my imitation cube from 1982: dust to dust.

The number of different states is 43 252 003 274 489 856 000. More than 43 quintillion! And only 1 solution is the right one. You will never find it by just twisting the layers. 350 million cubes are sold, so there will be some people among them who have calculated through this little game thoroughly.
Only four (!) years ago, it was proved that you can reach the desired solution with 20 or less rotations.

In 1981 it took the world champion 38 seconds to rotate the cube to its final position. Since 2013, the current world record cube rotation is held by the Mats Valk (from the Netherlands) who used 5.55 seconds to rotate the cube from a random state in the right position.

About the desired position, no discussion is needed, but I think that this achievement requires a thorough analysis phase.

This may sound already like an ERP implementation. Some differences:
• For the cube, the goal is perfectly clear. About the desired solution of an ERP system, it takes a lot of discussion, and goals may shift over time.
• The 3x3x3 cube remains the same (even though there are 4x4x4, 5x5x5, 6x6x6 en 7x7x7 cubes nowadays). The functionality of ERP systems like AX is extended more and more, just think about the new Warehouse functionality in AX2012 R3.
• ERP implementations do not run 7 times as fast as in 1981. This is mainly caused by the previous two topics.

• A thorough analysis phase is very important to achieve a predefined and predictable result within a limited time.
• The number of possible states is very large.

By some people, implementing ERP is referred to as the game of 10,000 decisions. Each decision that does not require thinking and yet has an automatic favorable outcome, is a win.

Let’s consider a simple ERP system with 32 checkmarks that can be switched on or off, and 21 parameters with 3 possible states. In how many possible ways can this system be setup?

2^32 x 3^21 = 4,294,967,296 x 10,460,353,203 = 44.9 x 10^18

This is almost 45 quintillion possible outcomes, so more than the 43 quintillion of the cube! You cannot setup this ERP system in a right way by chance. Required for a successful and fast implementation:
o elimination of non-consistent combinations;
o limitation of the number of start situations, by default initialization of parameters;
o clustering of parameters in logical combinations;
o reduction of the 10,000 decisions;
o implementation cookbook, with clearly described steps;
o Experience of implementation partner;
o realizing that even in a “unique” company, more than half of the processes is still standard, especially the processes that do not contain unique selling points or unique competences.

Conclusion: after four decades, the influence of Professor Rubik reaches to the Windows 8 tiles, and also for better and faster ERP implementations, there are clear lessons from the cube solution practice.

Photo’s: Wikimedia commons

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