Pedro Janeiro continues his series on emotional IT by exploring the complexity in corporate IT.
What if – and what a big if this is – data and software could be managed apart? What if you could run your data on a chosen list of software options? Let’s consider email. You could have your email file on one location, but browse it using Google’s Gmail, MS Outlook or any other chosen tool. We would have the survival of the fittest in the software evolution. It happens on the internet – you swap from site to site easily, from one search engine to another, from one browser to another, and even from one social media tool to another. But the corporate world is quite different from the web.
Imagine that the company you work for is growing. Fast. At a tipping point, the business complexity starts to grow faster that the business itself. Hard bureaucracy settles in and now complexity is untamed.
Consultants are called in and tell you about the urgent need of revising business processes and IT systems in your division. Most divisions get the same message – the new mantra is strong and a company-wide program is up and running. In most companies, this is a program for disaster.
It is so because the hard task is to realign people – realigned processes and systems are just the natural consequence. However, as creatures are heavily territorial and our primeval brain rings all alarms and most of your colleagues from other divisions will show how much they suffer from the “this-is-my-hunting-ground syndrome” and they will defend their division’s options with all their strengths. All those past IT investments will be kept alive to justify incurred costs and as a token of power.
No one likes to see their previous decisions and investments being questioned or replaced before time and any attempt to simplify the IT architecture will receive all sorts of artillery fire from the decision makers, be it to justify previous choices, as a segregation tool to establish internal border lines, or as a blatant statement of power.
Rational arguments simply do not do the job. It is not about dropping software A in favour of the superior software B. These are emotional decisions – it is about who chose software A in the first place.
On the other hand, those who suffer from the poor choice of keeping software A despite the opportunity to move to the superior software B will not step forward. They will be afraid to criticise their director’s choice, and they will be afraid of simply being wrong – the new software might not be that good.
Amidst this dilemma, opportunities like cloud computing are kept at bay and present a new set of challenges for control freaks and those who deeply treasure data, either for its confidentiality or reliability.
Complexity in the business world has many reasons to exist, and in corporate IT that complexity grows into surprisingly high levels of rigidity, of legacy costs, of resistance to change. And ultimately most of it is due to emotional reasons.
Pedro Janeiro is head of business design at Novabase