I don’t know about you, but whenever I see something that looks complicated, I am impressed. I mean, somebody took the time to make that and so based on the importance of information technology it must do something complicated very well. Well, it turns out that I’m wrong. Especially within our IT departments, the one thing that we don’t need any more of is complexity. It’s killing our productivity and eating up our budgets. What is a CIO to do?
How Did Things Get So Complex?
Can we all be honest here: no CIO ever sets out to make his or her IT department more complex than it has to be. Unfortunately, it just seems to happen. If you’d like a little bit of slack on this issue I think that I can give it to you. It’s not all your fault.
Instead, there are a number of different things that go on at most companies that contribute to the gradual increase in the complexity of the IT department. One of the real smoking guns is mergers and acquisitions. When those occur, CIOs always have grand plans to merge the two separate IT departments into one seamless IT department; however, for a variety of different reasons this never seems to happen. After the merger is over and done with, we’re left with two sets of everything in IT and things just got a lot more complicated.
As though that wasn’t complicated enough there’s also the challenge of shadow IT departments where other departments just go off and buy their own products and ask IT to take care of them. To round things out, let’s not forget about CIOs who establish standards for the company and then routinely don’t enforce them. In the end, you’ve got a complex IT department.
What Can A CIO Do To Simplify Things?
As the person with the CIO job, the responsibility for making things simpler falls squarely on your shoulders. There is no magic silver bullet for taking a complex IT department and suddenly making it simpler. Rather this is the type of problem that you are going to have to peel the layers of complexity away in order to get to where you want to be.
Somewhat surprisingly the very thing that makes IT so difficult may come to your aid in accomplishing your simplification tasks. Since IT is constantly changing, the person in the CIO position has the opportunity to be constantly creating and rebuilding different parts of the company’s IT infrastructure. If you focus on how the overall IT department can be made simpler, then each time you have the opportunity to rebuild you can simplify how it works.
A lot of modern technologies can help with this process. Not the least of which is the ability to virtualize your servers. The fewer physical servers that a company has to maintain, the simpler the IT infrastructure is going to be. This is a good step, but it does not go far enough. The next step that you have to take as CIO is to ruthlessly reduce the number of applications that the company uses. Every piece of software that is being used requires a team to support and manage it. Getting rid of software will greatly simply the task of running an IT department.
What Does All Of This Mean For You
Let’s all agree: complexity is bad. It’s bad for your company and it’s especially bad for the IT department. As CIO, it’s your job to prevent complexity in the first place and then to get rid of it if it does sneak in through the backdoor.
In order to get rid of complexity, we first have to understand where it comes from. The sources are many: mergers, shadow IT departments, failure to enforce standards, etc. When a CIO finds complexity, he or she needs to take steps to eliminate it. We have many tools to accomplish this. These include virtualization and reducing the number of applications that we need to support.
Complexity is a tricky beast for a CIO to fight because it never shows up to battle you. Instead, it sneaks in around the corners and before you know it, you’ve got an IT department that is battling complexity every day. Enlist the entire department to identify processes and systems that have just become too complex and then create simpler solutions to replace them with.
Question For You: How often do you think that the IT department needs to go on the hunt to find hidden complexities?
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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time
One of the biggest challenges that the person with the CIO job has is that the department that they are responsible for is more often than not viewed as being a cost center. What this means is that the IT department spends and spends and spends and never seems to actually bring in any money. Now I know that we all know all about the importance of information technology; however, to the rest of the company IT sure can seem like a big black hole. However, things are changing and some CIOs are discovering ways that the IT department can actually generate money for the company.