Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Running a Simplified IT is not so Simple

Simplification is the optimal level of sophistication.

Logically, simplifying the complicated thing is an optimal and smart choice either for running the business or solving a problem. However, it is much easier to say and hard to do. “Keep it Simple” is one of the most important management principles and philosophy to run a digital IT, but due to the complex nature of technology and overwhelming information, running a simplified IT is not so simple, and simplification is the optimal level of sophistication.

Look at complexity in different lenses: Simplicity has a multitude of perspectives. There are at least two ways to look at complexity. The first is to try to analyze what the impact of complexity is on a system (such as process, customers, business); the second is to look for the impact of removing some of the complications or unnecessary complexity by simplification or optimization. Though by its nature, IT is complex, it doesn't mean IT should continue to complicate the matters or increase unnecessary complexity without disciplines. Simplicity is a behavioral attitude to see things as and what and where they are and be content and cool as it is. For instance, in an IT or the business as a whole, we can see this complexity in terms of the useless time of the staff, and so on. Spare time is an energy - a capability to provide work, but that can be dedicated to increasing the entropy of the system instead of making other useful tasks. This kind of complexity is hindering innovation and decreasing productivity. However, there are needed complexities such as design complexity that competitors cannot imitate easily; or collaboration complexity that makes people proactively communicate, innovate,  become more engaging and productive, and business has better ability adapting to the changes. Usually, innovation either through need seeker or technology driver is the key factor to weave such complexity in order.

Running a simplified IT means IT should keep optimizing its ability and deliver value-added business solutions with speed: Running a simplified IT is not easy because IT leaders face many tough choices: For example, when should you build products or services in-house? When should you buy applications or systems? Today, truly building from scratch seems a little tough for most IT organizations because no one wants to redesign the wheel. Everything is a matter of degree. All large-scale businesses build and buy. Buying when there are mature and standard products available, or when supporting operational/secondary lines of business, to keep IT simple. But when your main focus is on the business applications which can create a unique advantage, it is better to build not just the products/services, but IT-enabled business capabilities and sustainable competency. You are not only building the system but also sharpening the staff skills, following your priorities, that can maintain the system long-term. Keep things simple, but not simpler. There are few cases in a plug and play fashion model but between buy and build, there is a middleware solution option, which is “assemble,” taking Lego approach-integrate multiple and different specialized commercial software components into customer-tailored solutions with speed.

Running a simplified IT means to keep IT digital fit with fluidity and agility: In today's volatile economy, nothing impedes progress more than protective business silos which are simply a form of bureaucratic amorphous mass designed to preserve the status quo or increase complication of the organization. In a corporate world, you will find the attitude of complicating things in procedures or systems, people love to hang on to the complications and express how they are experts in dealing with complications. If most managers still apply old silo management mindsets to new ways of organizing and collaborating, over-complexity will continue to be the biggest challenge in the business today.  Systems thinking is a methodology for addressing complexity via understanding the interconnectivity between the parts and the whole. To manage IT complexity and keep IT digital fit, IT should consolidate, modernize, integrate, innovate, and optimize its processes, products, services, and capabilities all the time, like gardeners prune the tree and nurture the valuable solutions. Even pruning the weeds would face resistance, however, it is a necessary process to follow the simplicity principle for running a healthy and fit digital organization.

Running a simplified IT means to improve IT organizational maturity from functioning (could still have a lot of redundancy) to firm (work solidly), to delight - the stage presenting the level of elegance which is a word to convey “just right” simplicity.  Even IT is still complex underneath, it should always deliver the best, often the simplified solution to delight customers with elegance.


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