IT's Recovering Complexaholics

IT's Recovering Complexaholics

The first step is agreeing that you have a problem. The road to simplicity is not hard

There's a standing joke that business people never have to ask IT how long something will take and what it will cost because they already know the answers: it always takes a year and costs millions - and that's just for the simple stuff.

If you don't find that funny - and why would you? - then you are going to have to own up to the fact that we in IT are addicted to complexity. And our addiction to the complex, the expensive and the clunky is increasingly indulged at our own peril.

That's because business people have discovered that consumer IT is better than corporate IT. It has more features and is more responsive, easier to use, faster to install and a whole lot cheaper to operate. I'm talking about things like e-mail and Web hosting services from companies such as Yahoo! and Google, and the low- or no-cost office productivity and workflow software that companies such as 37signals and IBM provide.

What is our objection? That it's not scalable in the enterprise? That it's not robust? Or that it doesn't feed our addiction for complexity? I think it's the latter, and I think you need to stand up and say with me, "Hello, my name is Mike, and I'm a recovering complexaholic. I'm interested in new ways to get things done."

Consider this scenario: you're the CIO at GlobalCorp, a rapidly growing company run by some whip-smart business guys with a knack for deal-making and spotting opportunities ahead of everyone else. They run operations in North America, Asia and Europe, and are expanding into Africa, Australia and South America. They move into new markets and new countries by buying companies and growing them. They exit markets by selling off business units in those areas.

The COO and the CFO ask you to prepare a presentation for the CEO and the board on how IT can help streamline financial reporting and increase the visibility of operations around the world. Some big deals are pending, and they think IT can make a difference. If you're still feeding your addiction to complexity, a little voice in your head says, "Wow, this isn't a simple project; it'll take more than a year and a million dollars - maybe more like three years and a billion dollars." If you're a recovering complexaholic, that little voice says, "These guys are moving fast; they aren't willing to wait three years. What else can we do to meet their needs?"

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