Friday, July 15, 2005

Simplifying Complexity

"Asset Managers May Untangle Complex Systems"
by Debra D'Agostino

Edited excerpt appears below:
Complexity in IT is like the national budget deficit. It just keeps growing. Every new project just adds to it.

According to CIO Insight, 81 percent of companies say reducing overall infrastructure complexity is a top priority.

Despite their efforts, IT shops are still wasting as much as one-third of their annual budgets on unnecessary IT equipment, maintenance fees and unused software licenses.

The reasons for all the complexity are, well, complicated:
  1. First, the rampant pace of mergers and acquisitions has left many IT shops inundated with disparate, dysfunctional systems, cobbled together out of necessity.

  2. Second, IT hardware -- which includes not just servers and desktops, but PDAs, mobile phones and laptops -- is getting cheaper, making items easier to acquire.

  3. Third, Web-based technologies and software suites for CRM, supply chain and ERP are wonderful at addressing a wide range of business needs, but do nothing to simplify life in IT.
Complexity arises because of business demands. Some CIOs are terrified to open a Pandora's box and find out how bad things really are. But the first step is always going to be the same for any company: IT asset management.

When it comes to software and tools, IT asset management breaks into two basic categories. There are:
  1. autodiscovery tools -- that probe for assets across IT systems and report key metrics such as storage availability and performance

  2. data repositories -- that keep real-time inventories of systems and help CIOs understand how assets are connected to one another
For companies with an aggressive growth strategy through acquisitions, or for a company that is about to be acquired, asset management is a must.

Software maintenance and support just isn't being managed accurately. Some companies pay contracts -- some worth millions of dollars each year -- without first checking to make sure the software is still being used.

I see a missing piece in the above story. IT asset managers focus on tracking hardware, software and licenses. What's missing is a technology portfolio manager that communicates standards and technology architecture.
Technology Architecture is to IT Assets
Metadata is to Data
IT asset managers target bean counters and system managers responsible for Manageware activities, such as software installation, inventory management, configuration management, license management, etc.

Modeling technology architecture and communicating standards targets the widely diverse constituency of people who -- use, develop, operate, manage, support, purchase, etc., -- IT systems and services.

Technology architecture tools:
  • describe technology portfolios
  • communicate standards
  • visually convey multi-dimensional context
Technology architecture helps people understand how the pieces of the technological puzzle fit together. The Germans have a word for it, Gestalt, which means the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

Architecture provides a cognitive roadmap that helps people better think about, and talk about, IT systems and services. Increased levels of comprehension leads to more strategic involvement, creative thinking, and overall consensus building.

People need simple and easy access to information about which tools to select from among a list of options, including:
  • explanations describing why a tool was selected, or rejected
  • how to handle allowable exceptions
  • where to sign up for training classes
  • where to find documentation
  • how to access Web-based support facilities
  • etc., etc., etc.


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