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September092014

The Challenge of Operational Complexity

By thewalk ,

Once upon a time, IT managers knew where their pain points were and could take steps to mitigate the full impact of them. It may have been system maintenance, software installations, preventing virus transfer, or working out how to integrate a new piece of system hardware without taking down the whole network. Today however, the complexity faced by managers is something of a more gargantuan task, contending with these elements and more.

System Challenges

In many organisations, the systems architecture of the firm is – to put it nicely – all over the shop. This is often the legacy of firms reacting and scaling up to meet requirements without consideration for how this will impact the business’ systems long term, nor any thought being put into infrastructure design.  As a result, many companies find themselves with 2 or 3 business critical systems operating in isolation, yet at the same time, intrinsically connected to the others.

many companies find themselves with 2 or 3 business critical systems operating in isolation

These systems may include an email database, legacy back end infrastructure upon which the business network is built and due to more recent interest in moving data to virtual environments, a hybrid cloud or a dedicated cloud. Each and every system must be maintained, but with advances in technology threatening to leave behind those businesses which do not evolve, plans need to be created to phase these multiple systems out and to phase in a newer, more integrated approach.

Of course, it will never be as simple as turning one system off and another on. The very nature of disparate operating systems will mean that no one solution will be appropriate for all likely scenarios thus perpetuating the challenge facing IT departments. In fact a study by leading analyst firm Gartner found, that for every 25% increase in functionality of a system, there is 100% increase in complexity.

Device Challenges

Here’s an eye opening fact; By the end of 2013 Gartner expects 2.4 billion devices (mobiles, desktops, laptops and tablets) will be shipped worldwide – there are over 8 million smart phone users in Australia (that is greater than 25% of the population). Unsurprisingly, a great proportion of those will end up in the hands of consumers who will use them as part of their every day, but similarly who will introduce it to their place of work.

The challenge for IT Departments is to prepare for this and to have plans in place to mitigate the inevitable network breaches these devices will introduce. Whether it will be a malware app they have installed, an elaborate phishing scam or that they unwittingly open their device to attack, consumers put the integrity of office systems to the test. The challenge for IT departments is to understand these risks and to head them off.

The challenge for IT Departments is to have plans in place to mitigate the inevitable network breaches these devices will introduce

However, it is not just BYOD scenarios putting the company systems to the test. Zero day attacks brought about by updates to the software of one of your installed platforms can undo your company either directly or via tarnished reputation (especially if you have high profile or customer sensitive data), faster than you may think possible.

To prevent these – or at least minimise their risk, IT teams must consider all implications of system upgrades and what potential ramifications there may be.

Key Take out

New technology, faster and better access to networks and through them vital infrastructure, and greater public acceptance to the importance of technology, means that the future, as always, looks very bright. However, counterbalancing this rosy outlook, is the need for IT departments to manage the ever growing operational complexities brought on by updates to system infrastructure. Failure to understand and allow for ongoing operational complexity will only ever lead to complications and sub-optimal business performance.

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