The challenges of simplification
- 29 June, 2012 19:33
Ah, the complexities of simplicity. The word conjures up Zen-like notions of easy understanding, natural approaches and intuitive use. Like when I recently watched a 2-year-old march over to the TV set and try to change channels by swiping her chubby fingers across the screen (just like Daddy does with his smartphone). Imagine how disappointed she'll be when she tries to work the ridiculously complex remote control (which even most grown-ups can't figure out).
In today's consumer-dominated business world--where CIOs look to deliver "Apple-simple" office tools requiring no training--simplicity has become a code word for speed, flexibility, agility and success.
"This is about killing complexity. As you do, you get faster," says CIO Charlene Begley of General Electric, one of the IT leaders interviewed for our cover story (" CIOs in Search of IT Simplicity") "It's about competitiveness." Simplifying IT operations and processes is one of Begley's four strategic imperatives for IT, as she strives to halve the number of GE data centers and lop out 85 percent of its ERP systems by 2016.
In talking with IT executives at GE, FedEx and McDonald's for this story, Senior Editor Kim S. Nash discovered how very complicated efforts to achieve simplicity can be. CIOs and business leaders must identify what to prune, then finance and staff the project, then make more plans "to stop complexity from snaking its way back in," she writes. "It's an ongoing battle, but one that could be worth millions to win."
Yes, millions. When researchers at The Hackett Group compared high-performing companies to average ones, they noticed that the typical firms were running twice as many data centers as the world-class ones, which also run fewer applications and at lower cost.
At FedEx, complexity reduction is "the largest theme we're working on," says Kevin Humphries, senior vice president of IT. He recently opened a new data center that will serve as the $39 billion company's main IT facility, even though it's one-third the size of the one it replaces. "You would be shocked to see the walls and walls and walls of excruciating detail to make something very complex end up simplified," Humphries told us.
As desirable as IT simplification sounds, such efforts often fail--and ironically, it's because they lack detailed (that is, sufficiently complex) plans. How are you dealing with the complexity of simplicity at your company these days? Write in and let us know.
Maryfran Johnson is the editor in chief of CIO Magazine & Events. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Read more about it strategy in CIO's IT strategy Drilldown.
Join the CIO Australia group on LinkedIn. The group is open to CIOs, IT Directors, COOs, CTOs and senior IT managers.
Larry Page wants to see your medical records
Dual-Persona Smartphones Not a BYOD Panacea
After two-year hiatus, EFF accepts bitcoin donations again
CIOs struggle to deliver timely mobile business apps: survey
Spiceworks' free management software gets integrated MDM
The Foundation for Cloud Management
For businesses looking to provide real-time business solutions to employees and customers alike, you need to have a comprehensive network management strategy. The network is the foundation of all successful cloud services; it must be robust to meet traffic, efficiency, and performance demands. Download today the four steps to get your network operations cloud-ready.
ESG Whitepaper: Integrated Computing Platform Survey
Data centres, servers, storage and more are being combined for simplified management and cost savings. In this survey, ESG looks at the current and future trends surrounding today’s integrated computing solutions. Download to find out how organisations are more likely to see commit IT budgets to the purchase of integrated solutions. Read more.
Deploying Flash in the Enterprise
Flash is quickly emerging as the preferred way to overcome the nagging performance limitations of hard disk drives. However, because flash comes at a significant price premium, outright replacement of HDDs with flash only makes sense in situations in which capacity requirements are relatively small and performance requirements are high. Learn how deployment approaches-including hybrid storage arrays, server flash, and all-flash arrays-that combine the performance of flash with the capacity of HDDs can be cost effective for a broad range of performance requirements.