Can We Make IT Any More Complex Than It Is?

by drjim on February 5, 2009

The World Has Become More Complex, But Has IT Become Too Complex?

The World Has Become More Complex, But Has IT Become Too Complex?

One of the reasons that the rest of the company doesn’t seem to really like those of us in the IT department is because we seem to make everything so much more complex when we get involved. First it was our networking issues (Frame Relay, ATM, Ethernet), then it was our server issues (multicore, Intel vs. AMD, caching), and lately it seems to be software design (SaaS, Cloud Computing, Web 2.0). When will this ever end?

Have we screwed things up? Is the CFO and the rest of the financial side of the business correct when they accuse us of buying the latest technology just to play around with it? It turns out, that everyone is probably just a little bit correct this time around.

So here’s the scoop: yes, information technology IS becoming more complex. Sorry about that. The reason that IT is becoming more complex is because the world in which we work is becoming more complex. I mean think about it, everyone is going global, expanding (yes,even now), and developing new technologies. What’s an IT’er to do?

The so-called “traditional” ways of managing IT no longer work. Now to be fair to us, we have made a lot of progress in simplifying the stuff that we already have. We’ve been hard at work standardizing and consolidating IT infrastructure and it’s starting to show results. But then there’s that SOA thing…

Server and storage virtualization has definitely been a double edged sword. It has reduced the number of boxes that we mange, but how we manage the ones that we’ve got has become more complex. The same can be said for all of the new-fangled software architectures that we’ve been dreaming up: SaaS, SoA, Cloud Computing, Web 2.0, etc. These new approaches to assembling software components help us to meet regulatory needs and better ensure data security; however, they sure seem to use an unnecessary number of acronyms to get the job done!

When you introduce mobility into the mix, you’ve just about sealed the deal. Trying to support a wide range of devices that were never designed to work together, getting legacy apps to talk to mobile devices, and keeping everything secure makes life even more complex.

Great, so the world is becoming more complex, IT is becoming more complex, and everyone thinks that we’re just sitting around playing with hi-tech toys. How can we possibly stay on top of all of this complexity? Here are five suggestions on how a hard working IT person can actively keep complexity to a minimum in your life:

  1. Standardize: Simplify your life by standardizing everything that you can get your hands on. Once you’ve done this, start to consolidate as much as you can.
  2. Get More Bang For Your Buck: make sure that you are spending your IT time and money where it’s going to produce the greatest return. Too much time spent on the wrong things will just make life that much more complex.
  3. Prune – Don’t Cut: There will always be times when the IT budget needs to be cut back. When these times arrive, don’t do wholesale across the board cuts, instead trim projects as needed. You may even boost budgets of critical projects.
  4. Use What You’ve Got: Make sure that the rest of the company has access to the IT assets that you already have. Putting information online and providing access to enhanced analytical tools can go a long way in showing IT’s value to the rest of the organization.
  5. Outsource Only When Necessary: Outsourcing does not simplify things, rather it creates more management complexity.  If you are too quick to outsource work, then you’ll find yourself sitting on top of a management nightmare.

Do you feel that your IT shop has become more complex in the past few years? Do you think that the rest of the business thinks that it’s harder to do business with IT because of increased IT complexity? What steps are you taking to simplify your operations? Are they working? Leave me a comment and let me know what you are thinking.

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