We live in a world of ‘and’, and only the myopic can’t see it

Last year I asked a colleague the rhetorical question "how long before we see someone talk about 'Cloud 2.0'?" The sad thing was, I checked online – and it turned out that one vendor was already doing it. Now there are more.

Just in case you didn't already know, the technology industry is a kind of fashion industry – but it's one where (unlike the case in clothing) you can't easily recycle elements of your wardrobe every year to make space for new "on trend" items. If your partner got you some hot new knits for Christmas, you can pass on your old clobber to a charity shop quicker than retail guru Mary Portas can say "fast fashion". If you take on a new approach to software architecture or a new middleware platform, you can't just throw away the old stuff. As I'm probably overly fond of saying, "in IT, nothing ever dies".

Of course this steady accretion of stuff – some in the mould of evergreen classics, other with the lasting power of denim dungarees – brings a number of obvious problems to do with how you control the cost of managing an increasingly diverse and complicated portfolio of technologies and platforms. But there's a more subtle outcome that every CIO needs to be aware of as they seek to navigate a path through the choppy waters of IT investment and portfolio management: and that's that increasingly, no investment decision can be made without understanding the broader context of how, why and where the resulting asset(s) will get used. This accretion means that – putting it very simplistically – assets bump into each other and overlap more and more, and unintended consequences become a more frequent occurrence once investments are made.

The importance of understanding investment context might seem like motherhood and apple pie, but it's a problem that's made more pressing because by and large, the IT supplier community and those who analyse that community have a dangerous habit of seeing every technology category or concept in isolation.

One example: the evolving discussion around Cloud Computing. Most of what I've read on the subject implies that Cloud Computing has to be an 'all or nothing' proposition, even though the practicality of that as an idea is frankly incredibly naive. Here's a couple of other examples: software development languages and platforms (you're either focused on Java, or .NET) and methodologies (you're either focused on Agile, or 'waterfall' style).

Neil Ward-Dutton on: Cloud Computing is the new SOA

In the real world, it's clear that enterprises' opportunities and challenges aren't very often about individual, fenced-off areas of technology or competence. Today's CIOs and IT architects live in a world of 'and', not a world of 'or' - individual technology investment and strategy choices have to be made in the context of a bigger picture.

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