Organic produce is great. How about organically grown Information Technology?
Here is a picture of a tree. It is twisted and complex. The analogous organic Information Technology Architecture would be opaque, complex, difficult to maintain, and riddled with redundant elements.
The following is the picture of a wind-swept tree. It has grown under strong external forces, it is unbalanced and distorted. IT Architectures developed without vision and strategy, or developed with too little or too much influence from the IT stakeholders look like this. Over-funding, underfunding, or technology-driven growth has the same effect.
The last picture shows a carefully architected bonsai tree. It took time to achieve the balanced, functional, and aesthetic result.
The corresponding Information Technology architecture is influenced by the key stakeholders, so it serves their purpose (IT Governance, Formal Requirements Gathering and Review). It is clean, transparent, and well-documented. It has been developed through a thoughtful process of strategic planning (Principles and Technology Roadmaps) and resource prioritization (Project Portfolio). The building blocks are uniform (Technology Standards), loosely coupled for interchangeability (Interface Control Board) and follow proven successful patterns (IT Best Practices). An independent review has validated the design quality (Technical Design Review). Once in place, proven frameworks-based support processes take over the lifecycle.
Is Organic IT Bad?
Not necessarily. If your IT shop is small, or you only have a single client (single source of requirements and funding), organic can be great. It provides agility, speed, and close alignment with the customer’s needs. Organic is great for the early stages of “Dream Big, Start Small, Scale Fast.” The local organic boutique IT is also a good alternative to the centralized IT – from the local perspective.
How can you find out, whether your shop’s Information Technology is organically grown?
If you do not have good quality infrastructure, application, project and service portfolios to create the necessary views – you are likely an organic shop.
If you have those portfolios, the next step would be to generate frequency diagrams like “Infrastructure Age Distribution”, “Cost/Benefit Distribution,” or “Technology Redundancy Distribution,”– the number of distinct technologies used for the same purpose. If you discover the signs of the Power Law, you may have an organic shop.
A high number of legacy systems would indicate that there is no lifecycle process in place. Technologies die “natural deaths” instead of being intentionally replaced with new cheaper, faster and better technologies. High redundancy would indicate that there is no process to ensure the re-use of existing resources. Frequent high Cost/Benefit would indicate a “squeaky wheel” culture and no process to filter out weak business cases.
On Monday, check if you are an organic shop. For IT this may not be good thing. On the other hand, when it comes to fruits, organic is great. Organic may be small, expensive and delivered with an occupant, but it tastes so good.