Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Overcoming IT Project Complexity with Business Simplicity

Albert Einstein said:

“Things should be made as simple as possible, but not any simpler”. 

However, all too often, organizations seem to ignore these sagely words preferring to “complicate everything as much as possible, and no less so”.

Why is it then when so many industries strive to adopt simplification measures (or a "Simplify and Repeat" process) to create consistent quality outcomes that deliver "stakeholder delight", eliminate superfluous handling, reduce costs, and minimize wastage, when at the same time the IT industry consistently does precisely the opposite?

Meaning that layers of unnecessary complexity applied through methodologies, frameworks and processes that promise to ensure project success rarely ever do so. On top of this, although IT project failure is a consistent outcome, it is obviously not the outcome we seek but it continues to happen consistently.

There are several opinions as to what exactly defines complexity. Roger Sessions focuses on the unnecessary overcomplexity of architecture, or technical aspects.  

Peter Kretzman on the other hand, identifies complexity as more cultural and sociological in that people want too much functionality. There is poor implementation (technical debt) and a lack of leadership. 

More recently, John Zachman has responded to organizations' objections about costs, the time and complexity of adopting EA frameworks for the purpose to which they are not intended.  

These definitions of complexity provide insights as to how organizations are changing their mindset from cumbersome, costly and complex solutions to looking for a more cost efficient, simplified and fresh solution to delivering up corporate information.

In my opinion we have facilitated this complexity by over-specialization of every aspect of IT planning and delivery. Don't misinterpret me. There is a time and a place for specialization but it cannot take precedence over the business planning process for IT projects.  If specialization has crept in, you can bet dollars to donuts that business has crept out and have wiped their hands of any involvement.

Have you ever taken a long hard look at how complex the process of planning and delivering an IT project has become? I am not talking about the complexity of IT systems themselves, rather about the exclusive frameworks, processes and methodologies required for the supposed successful delivery of IT projects that we have allowed to morph from smart simplicity into corporate complexity (or perhaps a better word that I came across the other day is Dumbplexity).

Dumbplexity” sums up how organizations habitually add unnecessary and dumb complexity when in actual fact what they really need is “Smart Simplicity”. And in the IT industry we have Dumbplexified what were and still should be relatively simple processes.

Unfortunately corporations and government tend to follow suit with a blind belief that complexity is a guaranteed recipe for IT project success. But with this additional and unnecessary complexity comes communication and collaboration issues, poor visibility, no accountability and over-inflated costs (which to most organizations is also another measure for success). But nothing could be further from the truth.

As a key decision maker, CEO, Business Owner etc, you are probably frustrated by the number of people required to pass around pieces of information regarding their views on the facts and accurate status of your IT project. And more than likely, you're up to your eyeballs looking at extravagant Gantt Charts with overdue tasks.  Coupled with the complexity of the above mentioned processes, your time spent filtering through the many versions of the truth still cannot guarantee the successful delivery of your IT project.

In this day and age of cloaking simplicity with complexity, it possibly takes an Enterprise Architect, Information Architect, Business Analyst, Project Manager and an “Information Sanitizer” to provide you with the information you’ve waited days (or weeks) for. And it still may only be the information that they want you to hear.

Unnecessary complexity results in delayed information which in today’s environment does not support a nimble, agile or timely decision making process. Complicated processes and frameworks that underpin IT delivery are unlikely to be a guarantee for success, and they also certainly have little chance of putting you and your colleagues on the same page.  Particularly when everyone is singing from a different Hymn book and speaking in jargon related to their own particular specialization.

Another key issue for CEO’s and business enterprises when there are various IT specialists is that it also fosters a culture of "Kingdoms", Silo’s and disparate entities that pride themselves on sole proprietary and exclusivity of information that is not readily shared or made accessible to business. When in actual fact business are the people that absolutely need it, and it is them that need it in plain business English not in some jargon that they cannot understand.

How do you cure “Dumblexity”? By applying “Simplicity”. See the process for what it is and remove the additional layers that have made the process unnecessarily complex.

The three key pillars for IT project success that you need in place are:
•    Visibility across your organization upwards, downwards, right and left;
•    Accountability for quality information and decisions, and empowerment;
•    Collaboration with the appropriate people, parties and layers of your organization.

When you have these pillars in place you can remove the majority of unnecessary complexity that strangles successful IT project delivery as well as your business's profits. You will have your finger back on the corporate pulse, timely access to accurate information, open communication, bi-directional feedback and one organization pulling together to achieve the vision – IT project success, instead of “Us and Them”.

If you are serious about the success of your organization and your IT project outcomes,  ensure that you take measures to mitigate against dressing simplicity up as complexity, "Prima Dona’s" masquerading as "Self appointed experts" and jargon that business executives cannot understand and therefore feel that they don't need to be involved because it belongs in  IT's domain. 

Kind regards
Sarah Jane Runge

 PS. Do you need to put the "B" back into the business planning for your IT Projects? Then take advantage of our complimentary 30 day free trial to our Profiling-Pro cloud solution at www.profiling-pro.com

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