Legacy IT Is Not the Problem

Chistoprudov Dmitriy/Shutterstock.com

Digital transformation requires architecting an IT organization around something more fundamental to IT organizations than technology: complexity.

Government agencies struggle to balance meeting today’s pace of technological change and manage risk factors like cybersecurity, cost, reliability and compliance. 

In response, interagency initiatives like the Centers of Excellence initiative, the Technology Transformation Service, and others are being rolled out to modernize legacy IT. 

This is a well-intentioned first step. Yet, it also frames the challenge of digital transformation as a question of modernization. That is not the case. 

Blaming legacy IT for any organization’s inability to satisfy speed and risk requirements can lead to the false conclusion that problems can be solved simply by adopting modern technology.

Digital transformation requires architecting an IT organization around something more fundamental to IT organizations than technology: complexity.

What is complexity in IT?

The more interconnections that exist between components of an IT organization, the more complexity there is. Regardless how shiny an agency’s technology stack might be, complexity creates opportunities for things to go wrong.

Below are the factors that create complexity in IT organizations:

Spread: The more IT is spread across clients, users, nodes, different geographies, technologies, compliance requirements, user requirements, the more complex an IT organization will be.

Disparities: Any time a successful transfer of data or information is required to keep IT operating, you have a disparity. Each disparity is a liability for service failure, non-compliance, a security incident, or more.

Manual work: Any activities that rely on human intervention—whether it be a quick operation, or having to relay information to another person—count as manual work. This is a special class of disparity because it introduces the possibility of human error and limits the speed of successful dependencies being executed.

To understand how this complexity compounds, picture a fictional agency called the Department of Complexity, or the DOC. Its network was built 16 years ago on BIND servers and has since opened six more office buildings across the country. DOC’s network administrator of 15 years, Nelson, now has to manually update a tangled configuration set covering all this new territory. Sometimes, Nelson makes a mistake or is unaware that a certain IP block is used by the cloud team. The DOC’s security team also can’t completely see network activity because the data it needs is decentralized.

Complexity in this example—compounded by various instances of the DOC’s scale, disparities, manual processes—creates a number of risks for the DOC. It breeds opportunities for security incidents to occur and go unnoticed, outages, increased costs and breaches of compliance.

Identifying IT’s complexity threshold

Unbearable complexity can show itself in a number of ways. If the repercussions are becoming too costly, or slowing IT down too severely, that’s a sign your organization has reached its complexity threshold. 

Below are just a few specific examples of signs that IT has become too complex for your organization:

  • As an IT leader, you could find that developers default to independently acquiring cloud resources instead of having your team provide them. That’s a sign your processes are too complex for your organization’s patience. 
  • You could start experiencing frequent outages due to IP space miscommunication between cloud and network teams. 
  • Even worse, your security team could begin having blind spots on the network because they aren’t able to access the data they need with a reasonable amount of promptness.

Reducing Complexity

Instead of considering how to adopt more advanced technology and processes into an IT organization, IT leaders should focus on eliminating avoidable, unnecessary complexity. To do that, consider how each of the following factors can compound to limit IT’s ability to move fast and safely. 

In the case of the DOC, for example, an IT leader may not be able to change the agency’s spread across office buildings, devices, regions, etc. However, other elements that create unnecessary dependencies, like decentralized network information, can be consolidated. Creating cross-functional teams can also help minimize the risk by bringing the people involved in risky dependencies closer together. Automation and orchestration tools can also help minimize the risk of manual labor-related errors, and increase the speed of service delivery.

Certainly, future-proofing an organization will involve modernizing certain technology and systems. However, framing the question of digital transformation as a higher-level issue of managing complexity is a vital step. The goal of digital transformation, after all, is to create an adaptive architecture that endures beyond assumptions of today’s available technology.

Andrew Wertkin is chief strategy officer at BlueCat, and host of the Network Disrupted podcast for IT leaders. 

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.