Are we experiencing the beginning of the end for IT complexity? Ask most CIOs what is their biggest headache, and they will tell you about the restrictions caused by the complexity of their legacy IT – inherited from their predecessor of course.
Complexity underlies so many of the problems facing IT leaders. It leads directly to skill shortages, as complexity demands specialised and often hard-to-find resources. It prevents IT from innovating and improving business, as the majority of budgets end up in keeping the lights on. And complexity is the cause of breakdowns between users and IT departments, as those users compare the apparent simplicity of the technology they use at home with the difficulties they experience at work.
For many years, complexity provided job security for IT professionals. As long as the infrastructure was complex, and needed their expertise, jobs were safe. But there are no end of examples now of companies who employ more IT people as a direct result of the fact that reducing IT complexity gives more opportunity for innovation, and allows IT to play a far more strategic role on the organisation.
Aside from history, there are no more excuses for maintaining IT complexity – either from IT departments or from IT suppliers.
Of all people, the government has become an exemplar of the benefits of simplicity. The release of the beta version of Gov.uk, the planned single domain for all online public services, has been widely welcomed and praised in articles around the world.
The Government Digital Service team that is developing the site has used open source, Amazon cloud computing, agile development and prototyping, eschewing the big project-oriented developments typical of Whitehall. It also came in under its relatively modest budget and within timescale.
Facebook announced its plans to enter the stock market this week, revealing previously unpublished information about its inner workings. The world’s biggest social network, supporting 800 million users worldwide, employs just 3,200 people. That’s IT simplicity at its peak.
It will, of course, take time to shake off the legacy of the past in enterprise IT, but simplicity should now be the driving factor in decision-making for IT leaders.