Recognizing the Problem
There is a growing storm on the IT horizon: computer complexity. In many areas, the growth of corporate IT systems and the complexity of those systems have increased to almost unmanageable proportions. More than any other IT problem, this oneif it remains unsolvedwill actually prevent us from moving to the next era of computing.
Managing complex systems is becoming a nightmare for IT staff. Daily they're faced with a constant barrage of software problems that must be solved quickly in order to keep critical systems up and running. The peril of complexity threatens the very benefits of automation that we're charged with implementing.
How Did Things Get So Complex?
This problem has been creeping up on us slowly but surely, the result of decades of unstructured growth and the implementation of many types of computer technology. We continue to create ever more powerful, faster, and cheaper computers. Why? To continue making individuals and businesses more productive and profitable, by automating key tasks and processes. Computers are everywhere, practically universal in business; it's hard to think of life without the computer. But we're facing increasingly complex problems of making multiple types of computers work togethermaking their files, data, software, and networks compatible.
Complexity is not unique to large corporate systems. Despite making giant strides in the last twenty years in power, functionality, and usability, the personal computer, whether desktop or laptop, can still be a source of frustration as we try to rid it of a problem, install failure, or error. Indeed, the latest desktop operating systems are themselves extremely complex. Windows XP, for example, has more than 30 million lines of code developed by 4,000 programmers. If IT managers with inquiring minds were even able to calculate the number of lines of computer code in all the applications in today's modern corporations, the total would run into the billions.
Every time you make a decision to significantly change an aspect of your business, you start a new battle between complexity and simplicity. It's a battle fought on many fronts. Most of the time, complexity wins. The first battlefront is the analytical one, of which financial justification is the major part. Complexity usually sneaks across this front unseen.
So Things Are Complex; What's the Big Deal?
Complexity is not just a problem of academic theory. Complexity in IT increases costs, affects productivity, and requires additional staff to cope. A reduction of complexity leads to lower costs and better performance. The total cost of IT complexity and its related problems is huge; no one has a realistic figure, but it must run into the billions of dollars.