“Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” — Leonardo da Vinci.

This statement brings to mind Swedish and Japanese interior design more than it does IT. Anyone who has ever worked in support for a large IT organization understands complexity. But how did that complexity get out of hand? But anyone who has also worked in IT long enough understands this statement:

“…except that the cheapest and quickest way to respond to individual demands for improvements from business units is almost always to do something that increases complexity” (p. 54).

But before all you IT’ers out there complain about non-IT department managers demanding new technology and new software to solve current problems, think about this: It’s IT’s responsibility to explain the risks involved in constantly increasing complexity and patching an old software program, and to present a plan to move toward a more simplified and more easily maintained environment. It’s not always possible, but judging by some statistics in this article, it’s not attempted enough by IT.

“Only 15% of respondents believed that their IT capability was highly effective, that IT ran reliably, without excess complexity and always or nearly always delivered projects with promised functionality, timing and cost…The survey also showed that almost three-quarters of respondents believed that their IT capability was neither highly aligned nor highly effective…” (p. 53).

In the face of these statistics, it sounds like we as IT managers need to become more adept at argumentation, influence, and negotiation. These skills will help IT managers convince upper management of the need to rebuild those legacy systems into more standardized applications that can support the company’s operations, but keep budgets down. We as IT managers must provide the leadership to the company, just like marketing managers provide marketing leadership, in order for senior executives to understand the risks involved in not reducing complexity in the long run.

— Shpilberg, D., Berez, S., Puryear, R., & Shah, S. (2007, Fall). Avoiding the Alignment Trap in Information Technology. MIT Sloan Management Review. http://sloanreview.mit.edu/smr/issue/2007/fall/02/

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