30 April 2007

The Complexity Proponents Run IT

Its been a busy two months since last I blogged here. I've been working with several Fortune 100 companies as usual (yes well within the F 1000) and the complexity mantra was reinforced again. Why is it when faced with complexity the response is often more complexity? Complexity to fight complexity?! I confess that I don't get it, there may be some organizational psychology or sociology that can explain it, to me its just plain idiocy.

The challenges and problems facing large IT shops are difficult, varied and complex but not insurmountable, unless you don't have an organization equiped to handle it. Unfortunately, as is often the case, most organizations are not prepared to change their thoughts and approach. They will choose complexity. Adding more compexity to meet these issues is not the solution. Most IT solutions are needlessly complex, insufficient for their purpose, difficult to change, manage: overengineered. Instead of overengineering, design in cost effective change enablement and empower end users. (this will be a future blog topic I'm sure!)

There are simple approaches and technologiess that can help, but those aren't used. Instead, the enterprise IT tool of choice is SOA. Complex, standards bound, political, expensive...you name it, it is complexity to solve complexity. Now, I think SOA is good, valid approach however in the hands of the typical enterprise IT shop it quickly gets mired in politics and complexity. Heterogenous IT shops with their various factions, will dilute, fragment and fracture SOA to the point where it will fail to deliver. In practice, SOA's core simplicity is lost, and its complexity becomes the sustaining driver. Each iteration within the political and architectural circles of the enterprise makes the situation worse.

Meanwhile, there's Web 2.0 and simplicity available. It is so comparatively easy in fact, I think that is why it isn't going to be adopted by many IT shops. If its that easy, who needs all these cost-center employees then? IT departments want to simplify but they can't actually bring themselves to actually do it. If and when an IT shop actually does apply easy-to-use technologies successfully, they will be in a position to out manuevre their competition.

Where do you start? Get a Web 2.0 team, from outside, and have them perform a bake-off with your IT department using their tools and technologies. When the Web 2.0 team hits it out of the park, ask your IT department what their problems are, and listen for the excuses. None are valid, it is purely self serving, self protecting doubletalk. They used complexity to address complexity, and that approach failed outright, cost more and underdelivered or some other partial success story.

Is Web 2.0 perfect? Absolutely not, but its premise is based on simplicity and high value. Used with sound (not old school complexity) architectural principles and design aesthetics that focus on simplicity of form and function, Web 2.0 will be better, cheaper and faster than anything the compexity proponents can provide.

How well did your organization adapt to and adopt Web technology (aka Web 1.0)? How about CORBA and/or DCOM? OO? If you didn't get the value you expected from these, you will likely not get the value from SOA you anticipate. What to do?

Go Web 2.0, of course! You need the right team (beware, they could be complexity mavens in disguise!), that can effectivel leverage the tools and technologies that are available in a blend of art, science and engineering simplicity and economy.

Well, what's to worry? Your organization won't do it (no real incentive) and your competitors won't do it either, so you'll all use the status quo vendors and technologies, employ high-cost complex technologies and IT experts and complain or worse offshore to lower the costs (and increase complexity again). Remember:

"Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results."
- Albert Einstein

So, is your IT approach insane? If you are a large enterprise IT shop, the answer is probably Yes!