Why IT Complexity Management Matters

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Why IT Complexity Management Matters

Unmanaged complexity in information technology will lead to many challenges that can inhibit or even destroy a business.

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Complexity IRL

You'd better have a plan for all those moving pieces.

Complexity is a natural byproduct of information technology. It can’t be avoided, but it can be managed.

Why does this topic matter? Well, Information Technology (IT) is critical for virtually every modern business. IT enables companies to automate business processes, improve collaboration, improve customer experiences, compete in new markets, ultimately leading to higher profitability and enhanced competitiveness.

However, if your applications, servers, network, data, or workstations are down or inhibit company growth, your business stops.

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The catch-22 is that while IT has become more critical to business, it has also become exponentially more and more complex. Today’s IT environment requires responsibilities and expertise in:

  1. Leveraging cloud-based solutions
  2. Defending and responding to cybersecurity threats
  3. Adhering to regulatory compliance
  4. Monitoring and securing mobile devices
  5. Supporting and educating end-users
  6. Integrating software as a service platforms
  7. Properly managing data backups and business disaster recovery
  8. Incorporating data analytics

The laundry list of complex IT topics listed above are just a handful of the “moving pieces” companies need to address. These issues are especially daunting for small and midsize businesses that are often required to accomplish these tasks without the advantage of a large and experienced IT staff.

IT is never the “one thing” that leads to success or failure in a business. It takes a strong team, vision, strategy, and ultimately execution to be successful. However, I do believe businesses with an ineffective IT platform will struggle to accomplish their goals. And it is often the ability and skill to successfully manage complex IT that can separate them from the herd.

Here are three things to consider in this regard:

  1. Identifying and describing the major influences that contribute complexity in IT – “Know thy enemy”
  2. How to minimize IT complexity – “Manage thy enemy”
  3. The art, science, and advantages to managing complex IT – “Leverage thy enemy”

I believe managing technology offers extremely unique opportunities that no other industry faces. Here are some elements that add to IT complexity:

  1. Technology is in a constant state of flux
  2. IT requires experience and aptitude in many difficult, oftentimes completely disparate disciplines
  3. The requirements of technology often serve many competing priorities and masters
  4. The IT skill gap in most small and midsize businesses
  5. Technology often grows “organically” within an organization and not in the structured, well architected way we all would prefer

These variables contribute some of the biggest challenges to the complex nature of IT.

The enemy of simplicity

Technology doesn’t rest, and with anything that is in constant motion, you have added complexity. Take your kid out and have her hit a ball off the tee; now, have a major leaguer pitch it to her from the mound at full speed, and you will get my point.

Let’s start with the end users of these systems. All they want is a “green button, go” experience. No hindrances, no issues, no mess no fuss. Sounds easy, right?

Well, they are also, at times, our most challenging ally. End users are our friend, our customer, the reason we exist, but they can also invoke havoc at any moment with unintended behavior just by having access to a system. It’s not their fault; IT is complex.

When it’s not the end users, technology and outside influences would be my next two top picks to add “flux” in the equation. Technology is akin to its own separate, living, breathing nervous system -- in constant change via evolution in offerings, software, hardware, cloud, best practices, and ideologies. It is my opinion, no other industry deals with the rapid velocity and acceleration of change in products or offerings as IT professionals face on a daily basis.

The last item for constant change stems from outside influences and changes in cybersecurity. Cybersecurity spending by companies is estimated to surpass the GDP of 168 countries by 2024. This single subject consumes entire professional careers, experts, and attention of many resources around the world. With the constant change in security comes increased complexity in everything related to IT.

In short, technology doesn’t rest, and with anything in constant motion, you have added complexity.

Why does any of this matter? Unmanaged complexity in information technology will lead to many challenges that can inhibit or even destroy a business. That’s why it’s critical to have a plan, roadmap, and ideal vision for where your organization needs to go.

Further reading

Managing Engineering Complexity: Are You Ready?

Chaos Engineering: Managing Complexity by Breaking Things

agile, changing tech, complexity management, evolving technology, it complexity

Opinions expressed by DZone contributors are their own.

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