Rising levels of complexity are a challenge to any organisation, says Ward Solutions’ Cahill
13 October 2014 | 0
Probably the commonest marketing mantra in ICT today is ‘easy to use’, which is all very easy to tag on to the product description and invariably aimed at the users. But from the perspective of the technical guys who have to make it all work together in the organisation, the blunt fact is that one of the biggest challenges is the sheer complexity that multiple systems inevitably introduce—however superficially simple the user interfaces might look.
We talk about ‘application sprawl’ and it is a good description. But in reality the sprawl usually extends across multiple systems, starting with legacy and core stuff like ERP which has almost certainly grown and acquired multiple add-ons and modules and links over the years. We have an ever-growing range of communications and collaboration tools, from simple email and IM to unified comms and the added dimension of mobility and umpteen devices.
You can then add data storage and servers and network infrastructure, multiple technology stacks and locations and resources you do not directly own like hosting data centres and of course cloud. Plus the likelihood that you are dealing with a number of different vendors. Factor in the many dependencies and you can see how the complexity, manageability and administration of an ICT environment can be heading towards potential disaster.
Through and on top of everything you then have all of the security issues affecting your systems and data. These are all key concerns for businesses, which become increasingly difficult to control and manage in these all too common situations where growth has been essentially ad hoc and unplanned.
The key point is that organisations today need to look closely and clearly at what they have and where they are in ICT. They need to develop a coherent strategic vision of where they could and should be. Where there is no common design and architecture, because systems have just grown organically, the organisation’s key infrastructure is inevitably facing risks in the future. It is also likely to be inefficient and hard to change as the business demands move on. It is complex not because it was designed to be super-sophisticated but because it was never conceived as a totality in the first place.
When we engage with clients, we always look to reduce complexity and create a platform that they can grow with into the future. Yet often they have specific urgent requirements that need to be delivered in the short term, within a limited budget. The potential danger is that in order to meet the short term requirement another element is just added to the complexity problem and the larger impact is not considered.
The only answer for the longer term is to tackle all of this head on and in depth. We are looking for a single, coherent, simple design and platform that can be built, developed and easily extended in the future to meet the changing customer needs. We push the complexity back into the functionality. All of that starts with the organisation’s vision and road map for its own business development, which the ICT will support and serve. At Ward Solutions, our Secure Application Development Practice team works with our clients to help design, deliver and support that complementary and empowering set of appropriate technology resources that provides a solid and manageable ICT platform for their future.
Allan Cahill is head of application development practice with Ward Solutions.