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The IT janitor

Gerben Wierda | March 18, 2016
Business IT landscapes are full with technological debt. Why do we keep ignoring the crud that has accumulated?

Hence, most businesses that are now jumping on both bandwagons are not homogeneous juggernauts at all. And it could very well be that, if they are not careful, they are going to pay a price that resembles the dot-com bust.

Their move towards the cloud is fraught with technical bottlenecks, for instance because their applications have not been built for cloud deployment. Another reason is that there is very little attention paid to the ugly crud that has assembled itself in the nooks and crannies of the organizations. Which means that actually making the IT-landscape cloud-ready and integrating (not just tacking-on) big data analytics runs into all kinds of problems because of technical debt.

Even if you have proper life cycle management on your infrastructure (many organizations have this), there may still be a huge amount of technical debt as LCM activities are also just another change in the landscape that often result in new debris here and there, or at least they often do not diminish the debris.

Now, hospitals, schools, factories, most organizations need the basic physical hygiene of the workplace. For hospitals this is clear to many, but it's a fact of life for every organization. But while the cleaners visit the physical landscape everyday to prevent the dangerous buildup of crud, generally no such thing happens in the virtual landscape.

Some agile projects have cleaners in their teams, but there remains little awareness at corporate level that one needs this kind of thing for the virtual landscape as well. For one, hygiene isn't sexy. But more importantly, the crud of the virtual landscape is just invisible to most managers. While down on the IT shop floor everybody has to live with it every day, and while strategic management will feel the effects of it (when the organization can't move quickly enough in the direction they want it to move), it is largely invisible for top management which makes it feel unreal. If the building is dirty, top management will experience it too. If IT is dirty, they don't directly. As a result, top management seldom acts on the crud in a sustained manner. Incidentally, the invisibility issue of the business complexity that has resulted from the massive use of IT also hurts the awareness of the need for good Enterprise Architecture.

Data Center
Public Domain Image

A shiny and clean data center may contain invisible virtual crud

Many organizations have a long history of grand new schemes and brand new plans and little attention to keeping the IT environment tidy. Most likely their current top managers are next in a series of managers before them that kept bringing in new fashions, couches, plates, cutlery, wall decorations, carpets, while constantly rebuilding, which resulted in a lot if invisible, but real, crud and debris. Currently, the business world is running two fevers at once, fevers that could become rather nasty for some organizations, as they work in unhygienic IT circumstances. And while many think the cloud at least will simplify IT landscapes, both developments will also result in even more complexity and -- unexpectedly for many --  even more hidden debris.


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