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9 March 2010

Five years on: Minimal IT

By Andrew Clifford

A clearer view of IT will help the IT management challenges ahead.

In these newsletters, we have explored three themes.

Theme one is that computers are very simple. They only do three things: store, calculate and communicate information. This is a useful way of cutting through the fog and separating what the IT is doing from all the other business activities and changes that surround the IT.

Theme two, based on the first theme, is the idea of reducing IT demand. A lot of IT activity is far removed from the storage, calculation and communication of valuable information, and with a bit of clear thinking could be removed without reducing value.

Theme three is that we need to use simple management measurements to get to grips with complex management issues. This idea is the basis of our SQM method. SQM provides a way to tackle the mess of legacy IT and complex transformations, and gives management an alternative to paying more and more just to keep where they are.

One of the major challenges currently faced by IT organisations is to take advantage of low-cost options, such as virtualization, Linux and Software-as-a-Service (SaaS), without abandoning traditional corporate IT qualities such as security and integration. How do the themes from these newsletters help IT organisations meet these challenges?

I think they help in two main ways.

The first theme, which reduces IT to its bare minimum, helps understand how IT can be moved to simpler, cheaper, more commoditised solutions. It helps us to see that IT is a relatively simple business automation tool. Now that technology has matured, IT need not be a huge corporate endeavour. We need to "let go" of a lot of what we hold dear in IT, particularly the IT organisation's control of all IT spend. A simplified view of IT makes this more understandable and maybe more palatable. The IT organisation's role moves from the provider (which is the easy bit) to the adviser (which is always hard and always requires insider knowledge).

However, we all know it is not as easy as that. We need to renovate or replace existing IT to work in this new world. We need to extend good IT qualities, such as security and integration, into a broader mix of solutions.

This is where SQM is really valuable. It gives you a simple but insightful way to understand what is going on, see how well you are meeting your objectives, and pinpoint what you need to do to improve. For example, it could show you whether SaaS solutions meet your IT security objectives, whether your outsourcer is managing the quality of your application code effectively, or show progress on your strategy for moving from proprietary Unix to commodity Linux. It can show all these at the same time, and help balance the competing priorities between them.

IT is broad subject, and these Minimal IT musings only cover a small part. But five years on, the themes we have been exploring are still relevant to the challenges that we face. What will the next five years bring?

Next: Freemind


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