When it comes to the never-ending battle against complexity in IT organizations, there's good news and there's bad news. The bad news is that information technology is in fact becoming more complex.
The good news? It's not your fault. Despite some chief financial officers' belief that IT departments buy technology for technology's sake and spend too much time "playing" with it, the truth is that IT is becoming more complicated, and more costly to manage, as business becomes more complex. Trying to keep up with the rapidly changing demands of a global corporation, its clients, customers and partners is a convoluted and costly endeavor for the CIO.
"The world is getting inherently more complex as we globalize, expand and develop new technologies," says Erik Dorr, a senior research adviser at The Hackett Group, a management consultancy. "The operational complexity of running a business today is totally different than it was two decades ago. That means traditional methods of managing IT are no longer sufficient."
A perfect storm of globalization, regulation and mobility is driving up the operational complexity level at IT shops large and small. And the technologies that have been designed to help CIOs cope with these rapidly changing macro-economic trends--service-oriented architecture and virtualization, for example--are addressing critical issues such as application development costs and storage capacity, but are also adding layers of complexity. That's not to say there's been no progress over the past 20 years on the complexity front. IT organizations have made great strides toward standardizing and consolidating infrastructure. Also, IT governance has come a long way since its Wild West days of the early 1990s.
Of course, complexity isn't all bad. "All these forces are creating cyclones of uncertainty and doubt, but culturally you want a certain amount of complexity and churn because it creates a chemical reaction that jars creative thinking," says Colleen Young, a vice president and distinguished analyst at IT adviser Gartner. "A certain amount of fear, uncertainty and doubt is good for you. You just need to ride the bull without getting tossed off." Still, operational and technological complexity are no picnic for CIOs and their staffs.