Monday, June 29, 2020

Unpuzzling IT Complexity

Companies that are skilled at managing IT complexity can gain advantages by pushing the boundaries of a more sophisticated business mix that provides opportunities to create inter-business value.

Information is growing exponentially and the nature of technology is complex, there is a multitude of complexities in the organizational scope. The emergent digital complexity includes hyper-connectivity, hyper-diversity, and hyper-dynamism.

The goal of an IT organization is not to make things more complex. The fact is that IT has to become the business optimizer for managing complexity and unlock organizational performance. Unpuzzling IT complexity means to improve IT organizational maturity from functioning (have redundancy) to firm (work solidly), to delight (“just right” simplicity).

Operational complexity (look at the IT organization itself): IT has to look at itself first. Technically, the complexity of aggregate layers of every internal IT system is a burden that often causes conflicts. When an organization becomes overly complex and people get frustrated and annoyed by not being able to accomplish things easily, this drives the search for simpler concepts, methods, and processes to improve its own efficiency, robustness, effectiveness, and simplifying the way it does things. So IT leaders need to manage that complexity regardless of who builds it and they should take a structural approach to consolidate, modernize, integrate, automate, and optimize for improving IT performance.

Strategically, look at complexity from a business impact perspective as well as from a solution perspective. A healthy IT management cycle is to simplify unnecessary complexity, look for what is common for maximum reuse, manage the full application life-cycle, retire legacy systems; reassess any systems that suck too much resource, budget, energy or require too much IT effort. Keeping things simple and optimizing businesses, is all about leveraging technologies to lower costs, improve operation, and increase revenue. 

Nonlinear complexity (hyperconnectivity, interdependency, emergence, etc.): Digital is complex, it becomes complex if things do interact, particularly in the case of "nonlinear" interactions, with interdependent relationships. You can't separate things properly or you cannot predict the actual effect of interactions straightforwardly. Organizations today are nonlinear systems that keep evolving. One characteristic of nonlinear systems is that small changes can have large impacts. A small error, inconsistency, or change in a system specification can totally ruin its performance.

Emergence is a characteristic of all complex systems which are not always predictable. The better you understand the interrelationships and interactions of the different parts of the whole the better you can unpuzzle IT complexity. There are at least two ways to look at nonlinear IT complexity. The first is to try to analyze what the impact of complexity is on a system (such as processes, customers, businesses); the second is to look for the impact of removing some of the complications or unnecessary complexities by simplification or optimization.

Design complexity such as highly-productive complexity, value/cost/risk ratio complexity: There are two sides of IT, behind every intuitive user interface, there is complexity in it. The forward-thinking organizations understand how things such as design help IT organizations become customer-centric by making things likable rather than just making them functioning.

There is an emergence-vs-design-paradox thereon across the business complexities around the multi-faceted business world. It’s important to apply design thinking to decode complexity and make things simple but purposeful. Trans or interdisciplinary science can be applied to IT complexity management by integrating multidisciplinary methodologies, enables leaders to leverage design thinking, and manage the digital business by taking the multi-faceted approach, technically, scientifically, and culturally.

Simplicity and complexity are dual forces of running high performance IT organizations. Every company is unique as a "system." You have to listen to the system data from the outside in and top-down - this helps identify root causes to negative complexity (entropy) with the objective of driving simplicity, so corporations become agiler to achieve the goals. Companies that are skilled at managing IT complexity can gain advantages by pushing the boundaries of a more sophisticated business mix that provides opportunities to create inter-business value, differentiated IT-enabled business capabilities, and a unique set of organizational competency.


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