5 reasons to fight complexity in your IT systems

Needless complexity is something you can and want to avoid in IT systems. When it comes to IT, the simplest solution is almost always the best. You need a solution that takes you where you want to go. A solution that can be launched quickly. A solution that helps you get feedback from real users who actually use it. A solution that delays decision-making until the right moment. A solution that doesn’t stop you and your organisation from making different, better decisions in the future – decisions that deliver a solid digital service.

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Gradually increasing complexity

There are many reasons why organisations become more complex, adding complexity to their ecosystems. Perhaps important decisions about products and technology are made under extreme pressure, or with a lack of clarity about the bigger picture. Perhaps the choice of a technology platform is based on a supplier’s compelling pitch about all its possible features. Perhaps requirements weren’t tested with actual users. Or perhaps a company chose a technically impressive solution because it looks good on someone’s CV.

What is unnecessary complexity?

You know your IT systems are unnecessarily complex when:

  • they are hard to modify
  • every time you change something, something else breaks
  • they hinder instead of help you
  • they haunt you in your nightmares :)

In our experience, if outdated IT architecture or overly complex systems are holding you back, you’ll notice it soon enough. We meet many IT leaders who want to get rid of these obstacles. Often it feels like it’s impossible to make a change because that would require bold and drastic action. All the systems are in use, and the complexity itself keeps you from changing things.

The solution is to actively reduce complexity at every step of your IT programmes. It may help if your IT architects include this in their evaluation criteria: have we reduced complexity this year, and by how much?

The rewards are huge. Why should you prioritise reducing the complexity of your IT systems?

1. Complex systems are harder to adapt and improve. It may seem obvious, but complex systems are harder to understand than simple systems. It’s more difficult to hire new engineers to maintain them. It’s more complicated to solve problems in complex systems. They’re not flexible because it’s difficult to test them and to make sure everything still works after a change or before a release.

2. Complex systems are more expensive. If systems are difficult to understand, maintaining or modifying them is a tedious task. It’s also more expensive to add new features or change existing ones in these complex ecosystems.

3. Complex systems are less stable. A complex system is harder to test, and it’s harder to determine whether everything is working properly. We also see many instances where complexity makes it difficult to keep the test environment and production environment in sync. ‘Huh? This worked in the test. So why did it break down in production?’ Say no more. Sometimes, keeping all the moving parts up to date eats up a lot of IT capacity. When you have to upgrade that huge monolithic application, it becomes quite a challenge to make sure your systems survive the upgrade.

4. Complex systems are more vulnerable to security risks. The more complex your system is, the harder it is to build a threat model. There are more moving parts, more different technologies, more versions to maintain and more potential security vulnerabilities. When it comes to security, your ecosystem is only as secure as its weakest link. And if your system is complex and has tons of links, it’s harder to keep them all secure.

5. Complex systems are less user-friendly. What makes a system user-friendly? Iterative development, user testing and minor adjustments. Imagine you have a system that nobody can fully grasp or understand. It would no doubt be a hassle to make the small changes that result in happy users. Before you know it, users are calling your service desk and asking for help with operating the system. If you find yourself in that situation, the complexity of your ecosystem limits the efficiency and effectiveness of everyone around it.

Crack the code: remove unnecessary distractions

Are you determined to reduce complexity in every step of the process? If so, you will see that you can deliver faster. Your flexibility will increase and you’ll get more value for money in your IT spending. It’s a satisfying feeling, as if you just lost a lot of weight. You’ll be lighter on your feet and ready to take the next step.

Helpful questions to ask in your fight against complexity:

  • Do we really need this application or this feature?
  • Have we tested this with the users?
  • If we add this, what are we eliminating?
  • What will be the impact if we want to revisit this decision in the future?
  • Can we postpone this decision?

In our ecosystem, how long does it take to go from idea to delivered product? How can we shorten that time?

At Worth, we help people free their organisations from legacy products, unnecessary complexity and vendor lock-in. We work with our customers to create plans that change how decisions are made. Together, we create roadmaps that help them move forward: to a place from which they can effortlessly advance and improve.

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