Why enterprises need to tame IT complexity [Q&A]

Cloud maze complexity

It often seems to be the case that progress in the technology world is offset by an increase complexity. This can be seen in increased IT infrastructure costs, multi-cloud frameworks that need bigger teams of software engineers, increased data capture needing additional analytics, and more.

All of which lead in turn to spiraling budgets. We spoke to Andy Nallappan, chief security officer and head of software engineering and operations at Broadcom, about how organizations can partner with their strategic vendors to reduce IT complexity, drive more innovation and ultimately boost their bottom line.

BN: Why have we seen such an increase in complexity in recent years?

AN: We work with some of the largest organizations in the world and we see IT complexity on the rise mostly due to their accelerated transformation to digital -- siloed technology stacks, increased regulation, and managing multi-clouds. The survey we sponsored with Harvard Business Review Analytic Services affirms what we are seeing: the top three root causes of IT complexity are incompatible systems and technologies, regulatory compliance requirements, and operating a hybrid IT environment.

BN: What role do legacy systems have to play in this problem?

AN: The role legacy systems play in IT complexity depends on the system itself. And frankly, it is less about legacy systems and more about technology silos -- connectivity and compatibility are critical in managing IT complexity. In fact, survey respondents identified the number one cause of IT complexity as incompatible systems and technologies. That’s the first place we look, when we help our customers manage IT complexity.

BN: Is all complexity necessarily bad?

AN: IT complexity is not necessarily all bad. In fact, it takes a degree of complexity to break through and drive innovation. It is more important now than ever to start forming a plan on how an organization will manage IT complexity because the world is only going to get more complex and an organization who manages that complexity has a higher chance of driving innovation, building exceptional experiences, and lowering overall cybersecurity risk.

BN: What are some of the key strategies that can be used to cut complexity?

AN: In our experience in working with some of the largest organizations in the world, there are three practices cited in the report that we know are critical to managing IT complexity: find balance between innovation and complexity, get the C-suite on board, and connect systems and increase compatibility.

BN: How can working with partners help with these?

AN: Working with a partner you trust can help you manage IT complexity faster and more efficiently. A partner, like Broadcom Software, who has helped large organizations manage IT complexity will have seen consistent issues and have solved some of those issues multiple times. Having a trusted partner is key to reducing complexity, and the top three partner models that work best are partners who look at an organization holistically, provide excellent consulting services to trouble-shoot issues, and ensures that there are teams solely dedicated to an organization's business success.

BN: Why are IT leaders struggling to find solutions for complexity?

AN: Managing IT complexity is in itself complex. The answer to managing complexity is not just a technology answer -- companies need to also consider processes and people. The trend we are seeing today is business owners, not necessarily IT, putting into place technologies that provide value to the business. Therefore, IT must work across several business divisions and that can be tricky. An organization needs to align the IT investment and operations, ensure that everything is protected and secure -- security must be an enabler, not a blocker.

BN: Who are the key stakeholders in developing a plan to reduce IT complexity and how should they delegate responsibility?

AN: The key stakeholders across an organization's leadership team include: the CIO, the line of business owner, CTO, CISO, the chief procurement officer and of course, the chief operations officer of IT. They typically delegate responsibility by their focus -- with the CIO making the ultimate decision. One critical focus area is integrations between the systems and the data, having a single source of truth for data. Also critical to the process is to think beyond just technology. What new processes do you need? What new roles will you need within the organization? In the report, Harvard Business Review Analytic Services identifies best practices to tame IT complexity and the first one listed is to develop a common language around IT complexity. That common language will help this cross-functional leadership team focus their time and effort in a more unified way.

BN: What are some key tools IT leaders can use to combat IT complexity?

AN: What we have found in working with our customers is that key tools and processes are unique to that organization. What might be a key tool for one organization is not for another. That said, I'll share what tools Broadcom Software utilized to manage our complexity. We acquired CA Technologies and then one year later the Symantec Enterprise assets. As we brought them together, we experienced multiple silos of technology and huge inoperability even just within one portfolio.

We made a focused effort to centralize software operations and modernize our technology stack for SaaS operations. We deployed Google Cloud as the backbone of our stack and introduced more modern tools like containers and more advanced security tools. We combined a varied set of monitoring, alerting, and logging tools into one set of tools for all products in our portfolio. With that modernization effort, we replaced 50 global data centers in just six months. The most important outcome, beyond reducing our overall IT complexity, was our ability to free up our engineering talent to focus on innovations and exceptional experiences, rather than software operations.

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