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How to Manage Information Technology Complexity and Increase Innovation

Jeremy Kurth

Tips and tricks for fighting through the drag of difficult Information Technology (IT) work and arm employees to overcome complexity!

The best strategy in the world isn’t worth much if an organization is hamstrung by its internal complexity. If unchecked, complexity can lead to costly missed opportunities in business. Opportunities that, when managed and faced head-on, will increase innovation and create true business differentiation.

IT is inherently complex. Technology impacts nearly every operational process so it’s not surprising that IT professionals would want to simplify what is already a very complex challenge. However, with technology comes opportunity. It is often those decisions to tackle the most difficult and complex business problems through technology that allow innovators to come out ahead.

Here are four guidelines to manage complexity and increase innovation in business.

  1. A strong, strategic, architecture supported by a stable foundation is required to successfully manage IT complexity. To achieve the best results in complicated projects such as improved systems integration, workflow, automation, or all the above, the IT fundamentals must be aligned, scalable, and in very strong working condition. You simply can’t afford to always start from the ground floor when seeking to add layers of complex workflows and IT processes into the mix.
  2. Don’t spin too many new initiatives at once and make sure you finish the ones you start. One of the quickest ways to have technology unravel for you and cause pain to your organization is by juggling too many initiatives or simply not finishing the last 5%. New ideas are the lifeblood of innovation, you should nurture, embrace, and prioritize them accordingly; but don’t get distracted. If everything is a priority, then nothing is. Don’t forget, the last 5% of a project can consume nearly 95% of the effort because it is often the most important step to ensure stability and success for the long term.
  3. Tackling complex IT challenges requires an increased level of discipline, execution, and communication. The importance of attention to detail cannot be understated because what may be deemed as minutia in a simple, non-complex IT system quickly becomes unyielding to long term growth and scalable, automated systems. Items such as naming conventions, change control, and following standards is exacerbated the more complex the IT environment becomes. In summary, cutting corners is more costly with complexity. It’s best to know your players, their strengths, weaknesses, and overall motivations to ensure you have assembled the right team of characters to complement each other’s collective weaknesses to produce the best results.
  4. Proper team planning, collaboration, and involvement from those closest to the problem are super important guidelines for managing complex IT initiatives. Contrary to the common stigma of the IT professional “ego” no one individual is ever the smartest in the room. Complex problems are the most appropriate ones to poll the audience, specifically to ensure the best solution is discussed and designed thoroughly. Too often IT managers or directors exclude end-user(s) or employee(s) that are closest to the problem simply because they are deemed non-technical. This leads to bad decision making and often complex projects coming to life without really studying the best possible solution, or, in some cases, stopping to truly get to know the root cause of the problem for that matter.

Utilizing technology as a strategic initiative can be a competitive advantage in so many ways. Technology can be leveraged to create differentiation and a competitive edge within the market, increase employee satisfaction or drive organizational efficiencies. Embracing technology within your organization can help solve even the most complex of problems.

To address complexity, organizations need access to a broad range of IT capabilities. Companies have 3 choices when it comes to accessing this range: 1) build an internal IT team, 2) augment their internal team with external resources, 3) outsource the management of their IT. Many organizations, especially small and midsized businesses, use managed IT service providers (MSPs) for IT augmentation or outsourcing since their internal teams don’t have the expertise or experience.

The best Managed IT service providers embrace the complexity of IT. They have in-house resources across all IT disciplines, and IT management automation systems, that enable companies to reap the rewards of IT while taming the complexity. The use of the guidelines provided here to tackle complexity head-on and simplify IT management can pay off with accelerated innovation.