March 06, 2019

You Can't Escape Enterprise Complexity, So Stop Running

Damon Young

Damon Young
Senior Vice-President, Governance, Strategy, and Planning for Enterprise Business Transformation/City National Bank

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Republished from LinkedIn, originally posted in 2018 at https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/you-cant-escape-enterprise-complexity-so-stop-running-damon-young/

Complexity often receives the same treatment within the context of business, IT, and enterprise architecture that roaches & mice receive when you encounter them in your house.  The very notion of complexity is almost offensive to some executives and consultants. It’s something to be rooted out and utterly destroyed.

Most of what drives this attitude is the reality that complexity produces uncertainty. Therefore, many executives hold to the false hope that, if we could just make the enterprise architecture simpler, easier to understand and grasp in its totality, we could eliminate the uncertainty and master our domain. In fact, many a consulting fortune has been made selling that self-same false hope.

But, consider, for a moment, the reality of the average corporation and its architecture.  

  • Each employee has their own computer, plus, today, some sort of mobile device for, at a minimum, checking email.  
  • Each employee has, at a minimum, basic productivity software (mail, word processing, spreadsheets, web browsers) installed on the computer, and at least email access on mobile.
  • That company has, at a minimum, one hub that serves at least intranet access.

Now, assume that there are 1000 employees in your sample company.  That’s potentially 10 million distinct nodes in your enterprise architecture, and that’s before you’ve added any basic back-office operations (payroll, HR, etc.) or any kind of actual business activity.

In short, it’s complex.  By definition.

Complexity is irreducible, otherwise, you would have no employees.

Anyone who would tell you otherwise most likely does not have the best outcome for your business at heart.

That said, should you even desire to reduce or eliminate your complexity?

Consider, for a moment, how powerful and productive a single person becomes when you augment their cognitive abilities with a computer and the information of the entire world with the internet.

That’s 1000 augmented human beings.  Consider the capabilities and outcomes that could be at your disposal if you harnessed that power and pointed it all directly at addressing your business challenges. That doesn’t even count the servers and mainframes and enterprise software like ERPs and large scale relational databases.

Complexity, properly directed and utilized, is a superpower. A force multiplier. A market differentiator. All available through complexity.

So, embrace it. Celebrate and, most importantly, harness it.

Because it’s not going anywhere.

Comments? You can contact me directly via my AdvisoryCloud profile.

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