The Three Dimensions of IT Complexity - Page 2

Mar 3, 2008

Al Nugent

Embracing Complexity

Technologies will only increase in complexity as we move forward. This is not necessarily a bad thing—the challenge of delivering superior levels of service in ever-changing environments is a fundamentally complex issue and can only be solved by sophisticated technology. Smart business-IT professionals will recognize this and actually harness complexity as a change agent to drive new and exciting disruptive business models.

Effective ways to address the complexity challenge include:

§       Process automation – The more we can standardize processes irrespective of technology, the more we can make things repeatable, and repeatability will drive efficiency improvements. Best practices such as the IT Infrastructure Library (ITIL) are great starting points for standardizing processes and building a foundation upon which to automate.

§       Introduce more technology – This sounds like an oxymoron, but putting technology controls in place can actually help manage complexity. The best approach is to start small and use this as a rule of thumb: if you can’t monitor what you have, you’ll never be able to manage it, and, if you can’t manage it, you’ll never control it.

§       Manage services, not technology functions – Organizations have been talking about service provisioning and management for some time, but they don’t have a service-based culture, mentality or mindset. Organizations need to understand what the business wants and what technology provides, and then build an abstraction layer between the two.

If you can isolate your consumers from elements that provide the service, then those elements can be changed easily no matter how complex they are. Don’t be fooled though; the notion of abstraction isn’t achievable through piecemeal integrations at a data layer and flimsy visualization. It requires more robust methods of aggregating technology components and management methods into a collection of unified services from which we can ascertain the true cost, quality and value of what we deliver.

As you put in place these strategies to manage and exploit the inevitable wave of IT complexity, don’t be afraid of publishing your successes. Explain in clear terms, not just what you manage and how well you do it, but how IT is contributing to the bottom line and stimulating business growth. A good example of this can be found at

Al Nugent is the Chief Technology Officer for CA, Inc. and is no stranger to managing IT complexity. In his career he has been CIO at AMRE, and CTO at a variety of companies including Novell, Xerox and Vectant, and he served as consulting chief technologist and chief software architect at BellSouth.


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