Complexity – The Killer of Agility?

complexityI’ve said a few times that the data center of today isn’t the data center of yesterday nor is it the data center of tomorrow. In fact, in “The Data Center of Tomorrow” I wrote that the: “data center will be a combination of internal and external systems that combine to create an agile, efficient and effective technology delivery platform.”

While I believe that will be the case in the near future (if it isn’t already the case today), the data center of tomorrow has the potential to add complexity to the organization’s IT systems and platforms. This complexity may just be a simple replacement of other types of complexity or it may be adding complexity to the data center. Either way, complexity has the potential to be an agility killer if it isn’t managed or planned for correctly.

Complexity has always existed within the data center. From the first day of data center existence, IT professionals have had to manage complexity but in recent years there’s been quite a bit of growth in complex systems within the data center. With companies increasing their use of virtualization within their data centers, connecting data centers with the cloud and implementing new platforms and systems every year, the level of complexity continues to increase.

Without proper thinking and planning, this complexity can have a negative effect on agility within the data center. There are a few things that organizations can do to attempt to manage complexity within the data center while keeping agility at the forefront of the IT group and the data center. A few ideas for managing complexity are:

  • Get visibility into the platforms throughout the organization to ensure that the IT group understands what platforms the business has
  • Get visibility beyond the platforms to allow IT to understand the business processes that are driving platform changes
  • Ensure open communication channels between all groups within the business to ensure when a new platform is needed or wanted, IT is informed and involved in the decision making process
  • Have a proper business technology strategy that drives all technology projects.
  • Build a technology council and invite members from all areas of the business to allow different opinions and insights into the technology strategy of the organization

As you can see from these ideas may not seem that great at first, they are a starting point for understanding the technological systems and platforms within the company. By understanding your platforms, you can understand the complexity that exists (or might exist in the future) and help keep agility alive.

This post is brought to you by Symantec and The Transition To The Agile Data Center.

BYOD – reducing costs and complexity for IT

I’ve written about the topic “Bring your own Device” (BYOD) in the past but I never really touched on the issue of what BYOD does for IT complexity.

Does having a BYOD policy that allows your employees to bring their own devices increase the workload and complexity for the IT staff?

My gut reaction to that question: Yes…it does add complexity. Building BYOD policies doesn’t require more control and complexity – sometimes it can decrease complexity with the proper forethought and planning.

Notice, I said “with forethought and planning” there. Using best practices, common sense and see what others have done that has worked and what mistakes others have made in the BYOD realm, and you’ll be fine.

First off, let’s look at phones.  Each person has their own preference for a phone. While a majority of people may prefer an iPhone or an Android phone, some prefer the new Windows Phone and some may even prefer (or require) a Blackberry. It is quite difficult for an IT group to support all of those phones…so in the past, they’ve standardized on one (or two). In the past, this standardization was it…if you had a company phone, you had one of the standard phones.

The problem arises when people have a preference for their own phone and/or a preference (or intense dislike) for an operating system. So the employee carry two phones: 1 for work, 1 for personal. Some are even able to talk the IT group into allowing their ‘personal phones’ on the network to access email. This becomes a burden for IT support as they now have to make note of these ‘one-off’ phones that are allowed on.

Rather than standardize on a phone and provide support for those phones, build a policy that allows individuals to add their personal phones to the network.  This reduces complexity as it allows the IT group to focus less on phone standardization processes and focus more on security and mobility. By focusing on the security aspects, IT can implement products that help manage these new personal phones and the data that might reside on them. Additionally, this new focus allows IT to build consistent security across all mobile devices.

In addition to phones, tablets and laptops are another area that can be reviewed to provide additional service to employees while reducing complexity. Being ‘mobile’ is key for many employees these days, and adding BYOD policies that allow end-users to provide their own devices – along with the proper end-to-end enterprise security measures – makes sense. If your users are comfortable using their own tablet compared to your standard tablet, why not let them?

In addition to reducing complexity, BYOD can provide cost savings to the organization. Most employees have a smartphone, so why not allow them to use it for business calls and emails and save some money? Additionally, many today have tablets…if an employee can use their own tablet for business, that’s an additional $500 savings that the organization will not have to spend to buy a tablet for that employee.

The cost savings debate is one that can be tricky. You don’t want to take the approach that you are want to shift the burden of costs for mobile device to your employees. You don’t want to not provide devices and force employees to purchase their own. That would be bad for morale. But, if you have employees who have their own devices that they want to use, you should have a policy in place to allow them to bring them into the workplace to assist with their work.

Selecting the right BYOD strategy and policies might be a lot of work for IT in the short term, in the long run it will reduce complexity, support hours and costs for the organization.

This is a paid post in conjunction with IDG, Dell and Intel®.






Agility & Business

Michael Hugos had a really good post on titled “Agility Means Simple Things Done Well, Not Complex Things Done Fast” that provided the best definition of “agility’ that I’ve found.  He writes:

Experience shows me (again and again) that agility is not about working fast but about finding elegantly simple solutions to business problems. You’ll know you’ve found an elegantly simple solution when the business people agree it solves their most important and immediate problems…

…because people can’t find these simple solutions, they mistakenly claim that agility itself doesn’t work. They come to this conclusion because they attempt to be agile by cramming complex solutions into short development cycles through working harder, longer, and faster…

…An elegantly simple solution (a robust 80% solution) doesn’t do everything (there isn’t time for that), just the most important things.

I found Michael’s article via George Ambler’s The Practice of Leadership Blog (great blog…check it out) in a post with the same title as Michael Hugos’.  In George’s blog post, he says (emphasis mine):

We spend too much time complicating our lives by trying to do too much, too fast! There seems to never be enough time to do something correctly, but always enough time to do it over again! Given to complexity of managing business, we’re prone to think that complex solutions, are better solutions. Instead we need to focus on implementing good enough solutions, solutions that bring about small wins. Small wins, if continually applied, in a thoughtful and strategic manner, quickly add up to significant results. Small wins are more manageable and have less of an impact if they fail. Seeking big wins are extremely difficult, prone to failure and require significant political will! Focus on the small wins…simple things done well… repeatedly provide true competitive advantage.

Hugos and Ambler have some amazing insight in these two passages.

The original intent of Michael Hugos article was to describe Agile development methods but I think it can be easily transferred to any piece of an organization, which is what George Ambler is pointing at in his post.  This is also what I’ve been trying to say in previous posts (see Simplicity equals Success, Is Perfect Worth It? and In Search of Perfection for examples).

Agility isn’t just needed for competitive advantage…it is required for survival.  Organization’s without agility will not survive…so why then do organizations and people still rely on heavy handed processes and bureaucracy?  I think it’s because they don’t know any better.

In order to bring agility into the bureaucratic organizations, a value must be placed on the ability to be agile…hopefully some of the research occurring today and in the near future will help.

How would you show the value of agility to your organization?

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