Your IT shop is Ugly! Part 1

This is part 1 of a multi-part article series see other articles here:

Big News everyone!  Your IT shop is ugly!  Good News everyone’s IT shop is ugly.   As a ‘older’ IT professional (In IT that means you are past 30) I have seen my fair share of IT shops.  As a solutions architect for VMware I have seen even more IT practices.   The truth is everyone’s IT shop is ugly there are no pretty IT shops.   In this article I will explain why it’s ugly and provide some prescriptive steps to solving the issues you may face.

Master Planned community

I recently moved to Texas with my job (It’s been great btw).   I had to sell my beloved first home and move into another house.   This home happened to be in a master planned community.   My community has hundreds of homes that have all been built-in the last five years.   Before a single home was built a developer got together with an architect and planned out the whole community.  Every inch of the community was planned from the placement of houses down to location for bushes.   It’s a beautiful place to live and very orderly.   To preserve the experience envisioned by the architect a 250-page HOA document exists to maintain the master plan.    I learned quickly that my home was missing a bush in front of the air conditioner and I could not leave my garbage cans out overnight.  As I drive out of my community the center island of the road is lined with trees.   I noticed the other day one tree had been replaced with a new tree due to the death of the previous tree.   This has upset the balance of my community the master plan now has a tree that is ten feet shorter than the rest.   Chaos has happened the master plan could not account exactly for the chaos.

I don’t care about your master planned community why do you bring it up? 

Honestly, I don’t really care about my master planned community either.   It is a great and safe place to live which were my requirements I could care less about the tree, but I believe it’s a perfect way to explain why your IT shop is ugly.   Your IT environment is as old as your company (in most cases) which means it was master planned a while ago.   Since the original plan you may have expanded, contracted, taken on new building techniques and changed contractors.   Your original architect has retired, moved to a new company, been promoted, continued, or stayed put and not updated skills.   New architects have come and gone each looking to improve the master design with their own unique knowledge and skill set.   Some organizations even have architects for each element who rarely coordinate with each other.   Each of these architects understood the technical debt created and left by previous architects.  Older architectures, applications, methods each with their aging deterioration and mounting cost.  Some of your architects have suggested solving these technical debt monsters in two potential ways:

  • Wipe it out and start over (bi-modal)
  • Update the homes where they stand (Upgrade)

Each of these methods provide the simple benefit of reducing the total cost of ownership of these legacy platforms.

The wipe it out method requires some costly steps:

  • Build new homes that could be used to turn a profit if they were not part of the re-platform
  • Move everyone into the new homes
  • Ensure everyone is happy with their new home (which turns into a line by line comparison – my kitchen used to be on the right not the left…)
  • Switch the owners into the new homes
  • Plow down older homes
  • Build new homes on the land to turn a profit (or get cost savings from the re-platform to improve bottom line)

The update homes where they stand seems like a good plan but requires some steps:

  • Buy new materials to replace sections of the home
  • Move owners into temporary housing
  • Update their homes
  • Move them back
  • It’s a long process

Both methods are costly and removing technical debt rarely makes the businesses radar of critical to the health of the business, so they get ignored.

So, the first set of things that made your IT shop ugly are:

  • Many different architects over time each with a different vision
  • Legacy IT, with Legacy Legacy IT, with Legacy Legacy Legacy IT, with Mainframe (Technical Debt)
  • Business does not want to spend money on technical debt projects because they don’t provide revenue

The first real challenge is change happens and you will not have the funding to remove the old and replace with the new.      

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