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Order out of chaos

Gary James
April 4, 2024

This blog is a revisit of one that I did in 2019 called “Order out of chaos” looking at how as complexity increases in IT simplicity needs to be maintained and clarity of experience and outcomes needs to be emphasised.

Many things have changed and many have stayed the same so now is time to revisit…..

I have a mobile device that helps run my life – in fact – I had only two in 2019 but now I have at least three and often more.

Two phones, a watch (two types depending on use case) and a number of tags for various items, but I don’t need to understand the complexity of the chip or the coding and release cycle of the apps to effectively organize my work or my life.

I’m not really interested in what the data recovery plan for my exercise history for the last 15 years is – I just assume that it’s going to be there. If there is a bug or improvement for one of the apps on my device, or the device itself, then I typically find out because I get an update that tells me it is fixed and available – usually before I experience any disruption.

The bottom line is that my devices give me insights and let me know:

  • How I can maximize my battery life
  • Whether I’ve received an e-mail, a tweet mention, or a birthday wish on social media
  • The best way to get from point A to point B
  • How to reduce my weight or increase my fitness
  • Where my suitcase is, or isn’t, when I want to know.

Even with all this complexity, these functions and features are well aligned to my requirements – delivering the outcomes I want (I could be a little fitter or less stressed about my luggage) and leaving me to focus on what’s important to me at a particular time and a particular place.

This isn’t your father’s enterprise IT

If we look back in history, there are many examples of where focusing on the changing demands of the customer have led to prioritizing and increasing simplicity over complexity. Leaving the mobile device to one side, the automobile is the same. In my father’s time, as a mechanic he was able to undertake many repairs to his car because it was simpler – and he could understand the different components. Now with my car, I see it as a tool of convenience – and I wouldn’t understand how my mobile device bonds to my car to play music – let alone how my anti-lock brakes or rain-sensitive wipers work. Since 2019, the automotive market has moved forward hugely, even many of the “service agents” from then may not understand the workings of the latest EV car features.

Enterprise IT is following the same path as all these other areas with multiple layers of increasing complexity. And just like mobile devices and cars, the increasing amount of opportunity offered through technologies such as AI, VR, IoT, blockchain(what happened to that?), etc. and now, of course,  GenAI & cloud are going to continue this trend. So why is it that we’re not seeing a realignment of what the customer – i.e. the business and the end user – wants happening fast enough?

A lot of research has shown that digital transformation has not delivered. For example, in some cases only 14% of companies are seeing enhanced operational efficiency and a mere 16% are happy with revenue growth, while just 21% say that digital transformation has actually improved revenue growth. When I speak to customers, I still find that the reason for this is that a clear alignment of the value of IT to business is lacking – the challenges of 2019 are still around in 2024.

Closing the gap – Getting real business and customer value from IT

It’s clear that there’s the risk of the continued perception that IT does not add value and without care the use of something like GenAI could either be another missed opportunity or a significant business risk from various perspectives.

So, we must look into how we should address this gap.

A new approach is required, where value to the customer should be the key driver. The first step is to understand the value of existing IT, what there is, where it is, how it delivers business outcomes, and what the negative impacts of it not being there are. But we can’t just naval gaze, we also need to be thinking about how we drive forward value, so each change must consider the benefit from business and end user perspectives – and we must apply rigor to this through the change process.

So, the value of IT is not intrinsic – the value is what we get out – and that needs to be simple, irrespective of the underlying detail. Unless we start to take this approach from now on, we will not be able to focus on what is important in running our businesses.

So, many things have changed in the area of Enterprise IT since 2019 but there is still work to do. If I was looking to provide feedback on our 5 years performance. Collectively I would say “Could do better!”.