CIOs In Search of IT Simplicity

Today's tangled mess of technology hurts business agility and the bottom line. Some CIOs say it's time for a war on complexity.

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At McDonald's, Weick's team categorizes technologies as explore and innovate, commercialize and deploy, or enhance and maintain. IT works with business leaders to set investment levels and plans for how each system will move through the cycle. Continuous pruning is a challenge for CIOs, he says. "It's easier to add something new than retire something old. It builds up like plaque in a coronary artery."

Keeping Simplicity Alive

One reason simplification fails, says Humphries at FedEx, is that people don't realize that simplifying is actually pretty complicated. His new data center is supposed to be simpler to run for the IT group and give business units the ability to change course quickly, to get ahead of market events, he says. Building such a facility involves many decisions about technology and design. "You would be shocked to see the walls and walls and walls of excruciating detail to make something very complex end up simplified."

Maintaining simplicity as a state of mind, as Wander envisions, requires that you don't underestimate the ongoing effort involved. After all, doing business brings fresh complexity to IT every day, he says. Mergers and acquisitions won't stop. Nor will rogue IT in departments that circumvent the rules. At the same time, corporate budgets are finite. The noble and concrete reasoning behind a proposed project to consolidate servers or inventory IT assets may not win against a proposal to expand operations in a growing customer market, he says.

Even when simplification projects are rejected, the IT should work that way anyway, he says. "If you're a good CIO, you're doing this all the time."

Follow Senior Editor Kim S. Nash on Twitter: @knash99. Or read her blog, Strategic CIO.

Copyright © 2012 IDG Communications, Inc.

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