Thursday, August 21, 2008

Complexity is not a technology problem

In a recent copy of CIO Magazine, John Parkinson wrote an article titled Simplifying IT Management is Anything But. In this article, John discussed the difficulty in seeing through the vendor presentations to see which technologies would really make a difference to an organization.

In my view, if you are trying to understand what technologies to use to address complexity, you are probably too late. The solution to complexity is never found in technology. It is found in architecture. And architecture is mostly technology neutral. My perspective on complexity is that it can only be addressed at the enterprise architectural level, and then only if an organization specifically focuses on that as the overriding issue. In my book, Simple Architectures for Complex Enterprises, I address the issue of architectural complexity in depth. In summary, we must first understand complexity, then model it, then build processes that can be proven to address it. But the single most important factor is attitude. We need to view complexity as an enemy and simplicity as a core business asset. Every business analyst and IT architect needs to unite in the battle against complexity. Most IT systems fail, and the bigger they are, the harder they fall. When an IT system fails, the reason is almost always unmanaged complexity.


Tony Heringer said...

Roger...I picked up a copy of your book "Simple Architectures For Complex Enterprises" and look forward to digging into the material. I've been in this business since the 80s and love to hear from thought leaders who have your perspective. Thanks!

Roger Sessions said...

Thanks! I will look forward to hearing what you think.
- Roger

DBJ said...

IT system is born and lives inside its natural habitat or environment. Which also can be named a "system". This also defines the performance and complexity, of the IT system, living inside it. For example. Data Center complexity/simplicity defines the IT systems (it is hosting) performance. And Organization owning the data center is also a system to be managed and made complex or simplex. My point? IT system complexity is impossible to manage comprehensively. It can be only encapsulated and decoupled, so that to the external observer IT system looks simple(r).
Same as any other quant to its observer, whose act of observation influences the observed behavior.

BTW: I like your IT simplifications Roger.

Anonymous said...

Roger, I've just finished reading "Simple Architectures For Complex Enterprises" and I have to say a few lightbulbs have come on. I find your arguments for system failures being rooted in unnecessary complexity to be highly persuasive and it seems you give some very practical tools and techniques for solving the issue.
I also found it a revelation to think that complex architectures are not the result of more architectural skill and effort but perhaps less. Very very interesting.
I'm hoping to do some presentation of your ideas to my technology consulting colleagues as I think they're very helpful.
Thanks for your efforts in writing the book and I wish it much success.