IT systems are supposed to support enterprises to enable them to do whatever they do better, faster and more cheaply than if thousands of people were pushing pieces of paper around, right? Yet all too often the systems that were supposed to make life easier are now preventing the business from operating in the way that it desires. IT has become a blocker rather than an enabler.
But, as we survey the rubble of over 30 years of development, we realise that the problems we face are very much like those of the urban planner confronting decades of piecemeal building. While there may be some excellent examples of individual buildings-or in our case, systems-the whole does not function in the way it needs to. In both cases the solution is far from trivial.
Renewing a large enterprisewide IT infrastructure requires a clear vision and deep pockets. Moreover, there is a very real risk that in trying to improve the situation you end up wasting a lot of money without actually delivering real added value. The renewal process can also seriously handicap the ability of the enterprise to function, and eat up large sums while actually making things worse or at least no better. And in the current 24-hour business climate, there is less opportunity to migrate systems and much less tolerance of a situation where applications and data are not available.
At the same time the drivers for IT renewal have fundamentally shifted. In the past, projects were motivated by IT issues, such as replatforming applications in order to decrease costs and increase efficiency, but today the motivation is increasingly due to business issues. The enterprise has rediscovered the role IT can play in helping it achieve its goals and is articulating its desire to gain these benefits much faster. Likewise, it is now unwilling to accept that the only route to these benefits is high-risk and eye-wateringly expensive. And finally, it also wants to prioritise and set the goals for the migration to its new systems, not have these imposed on it by technical constraints.
This change in emphasis is actually a very positive thing all round. Johny Morris articulates the issue very well in his book, Practical Data Migration??: "Data migration is most definitely a business not a technical issue," he argues. "In the past the IT department was given the responsibility for data migration by the business, but not the power to deliver successfully. The business has requested migrations, but then has not taken responsibility for them. To be successful, migrations must be owned and driven by the business."