Where a focus on simplicity overcomes business technology complexity!

Business is complex enough, but throw complex technology into the fold and you have a recipe for diasater.

Every time I sit in front of senior executives, I always wonder, when they ask a simple question to the CIO, the answer often takes 10 minutes or more to answer and starts with “it’s not as simple as that.”

I am sure a good recent example of this translation is aptly described by the recent mess at the BBC in London (UK). The BBC stated recently that “The BBC is to abandon a £98m digital production system, after BBC chief Tony Hall said it had “wasted a huge amount of licence fee payers’ money”. How difficult is it really to take a digital asset, store it somewhere and then find it again and then play it back again. Then what you have done with this one asset, just do a few more times to the rest!

A lot of CIO’s are fairly blind to simplicity, as they are not invited as business leaders and hence have never been on the front line solving “seamingly” complex problems by breaking down the components into smaller parts, then removing the duplication in people, time or money. The fact is that CIO’s often get “too embedded in the technology quagmire” of the vendor spin doctors, who’s sole role is to “up sell” at every opportunity and hey we all want to manage a $10M plus project for our Linkedin jobs profile!

So although we may laugh at the public blundering at the BBC, I can assure many people that numerous global ERP projects have gone similar ways, only to have that big red “restart” button hit time and time again. Resetting expectations, objectives, strategies and extending our jobs for a few more years.

Strangely the simple problem of the corporate information platform or to us the “intranet” is a prime example of simplicity made complex in modern times because it can be!

Microsoft Sharepoint was a perfect storm, the intranet is a vital organ in the smooth operation of a business acting like the corporation central nervous system, linking every part of the organization, into a common pathway that everyone can access and understand.

So where did it all go wrong?

Well, go back to the business, once the requirements are drafted it’s then thrown over to the technical teams to solve, who first off, see this as a challenge that they can only solve! So instead of challenging the business and assessing a change in process, or even asking for a compromise in the complexity, they go off full-pelt building and developing solutions to meet this “unchallenged” need.

Sharepoint is the perfect platform, it’s Microsoft (so it must be good), it’s out of the box (even better) and we can customize it for our needs (perfect), so off we go then!

Please don’t get me wrong, this is not a dig at Microsoft (there are other technologies that were too complex), it’s a dig at all the complexity that technology has delivered to us by our technologists, for little or no business benefit. However, Microsoft Inc. will now have a powerful simplistic approach incorporating the benefits of Sharepoint, through a socially based simple collaborative environment like Yammer. Interesting simplicity has emerged through divergence, innovation and a change in social and technological interactive behavior.

Then came Yammer, a social platform, that doesn’t care about structure, it cares about connectivity and interoperability. Yammer is also simple, intuitive, does the simple things well and makes complexity a thing of the past, just by not letting it in the door. Better than this, the business and it’s users get it (my usability figures were through the roof) and this means activity, relevance, knowledge and engagement. The Social Platforms will be here to stay, because they actually assist in doing things well, like access to relevant, topical threaded information, content searching, conversational problem solving I can go on and on.

More to the point these business technology platforms actually do there job and they help a complex business become a simple one and that means that business has a better chance of success by understanding its valuation and customer needs.

So the reason for this article is to reassure most business executives that when you meet with technologists make sure that you retain a more than vested interest in the project and make sure that you have a business technologist on your side who understands and can help in deciphering the requirements both of your business processes and of the technology being presented to you.

Probably the emergence of marketing technology will be the birth place for the new business technologists of the future, as the Chief Marketing Technologist role is a balance between the needs and requirements of the marketing function married with the technology to automate many of these processes to leverage the modern day media channels, delivering more measurable effective business results or sales to you and me.

I personally don’t see the elevation of the CIO being achieved, I cannot agree with any of the Heller Research that promotes such beliefs, what I do see is the emergence of business technologists, who are extremely agile and competent business people as well as being technically aware, trained and converse with making technology help a business be truly successful.

Let’s wait and see.

One thought on “Where a focus on simplicity overcomes business technology complexity!

  1. Your assessment of technology being taken as a separate entity from the business is so true. I recently worked on a project for a government client, whose IT dept. wanted to scrap the old and supposedly archaic operations tool used at it’s privately held locations for something that would be entirely hands-off for the gov’t entity and extract data for it’s own use, but leave the private locations without the operations tool they had been so accustomed to using and was ingrained in all their processes. My team and I showed how critical the current tool was and removing it would be detrimental to the individual locations, but also the gov’t body. It was a classic case of IT having an agenda without the business or operational side having any input. I completely agree that IT and other groups need to work in tandem and speak to each other before making critical decisions.

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