12 January 2010

Tidying IT

By Andrew Clifford

You can learn a lot about managing legacy IT from tidying your home.

I am not a naturally tidy person. I tend to leave things where they are when I have finished with them. My desk collects clutter. But over the years I have learned that having things tidy makes life a lot easier, and out of necessity I have developed some rules for tidying effectively:

I have also learned that you can not tidy everything at once, and abandoning a big sort-out half way through can leave things more untidy than when you started. My favourite method for tidying is very simple: find something that belongs somewhere else; put it away; repeat. It is not sophisticated, but it means I can stop tidying at any time without things looking worse, and it is easy to start again.

There are lots of parallels with tidying and the management of older "legacy" IT systems — IT's equivalent of a messy house.

Some try to avoid tidying their IT by buying new packages. This is like moving house. It is a lot more expensive than tidying what you have, and inevitably you just take the mess with you. You can get someone in to tidy for you, but that does not stop the mess from having to be sorted.

To sort out legacy systems:

These ideas about tidying have had a strong influence on the SQM method. SQM provides a practical way of defining strategy and policy. It sets priorities. It guides you what to do next. It shows progress. It lets you tackle the mess of legacy systems without committing to huge and risky transformation projects.

It is a new year, a good time for making resolutions. Make 2010 the year you tidy up your old IT.