When asked in 2011 what he had set out to do in business, Jack Dorsey, co-founder of Twitter and founder of Square, famously said, “My goal is to simplify complexity.”
A decade later and these words will resonate loudly with every technologist around the world.
After a year of frantic firefighting in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, many IT departments now find themselves drowning in a sea of complexity.
For technologists, who have worked tirelessly to guide their organisations through the pandemic and respond to huge changes in customer and employee demands, it must seem as though their job has become a never-ending, maybe even unwinnable, struggle against IT complexity.
This was certainly one of the most striking themes to come out of our latest Agents of Transformation report. A high 88% of technologists in Singapore claim that their response to COVID-19 has created more IT complexity than they have ever experienced and 84% feel that their job has become more complex over the last year.
Complexity has become the biggest pressure point for technologists during the pandemic and many are unfortunately suffering in both their ability to carry out their job properly and their own personal wellbeing.
Complexity is coming from every angle
Whilst IT has always been characterised by a certain degree of complexity, the events of the last year have taken things to a whole new, stratospheric level.
IT departments were forced to face a sudden and brand new set of priorities and challenges, and technologists have been under immense pressure to deliver the infrastructure, applications and security required to maintain world-class digital experiences for customers and employees ever since.
The pandemic has caused rapid acceleration of digital transformation programs and cloud computing initiatives in particular. This has created a more complex IT estate across which it is much harder to monitor performance and identify issues quickly.
In our research, 78% of Singapore technologists reported that technology sprawl across a patchwork of legacy and cloud technologies had increased complexity over the last year.
The sheer scale of digital transformation has led to an overwhelming deluge of new data engulfing IT departments and this data noise is adding even more layers to uncover.
How to overcome complexity?
The pandemic’s ramifications mean that there is no reversing digital transformation. Gone are old timelines and delivery cycles with long-winded planning phases, budget reviews and incremental development. Business leaders have seen what they can achieve and they know that continual innovation and transformation will be essential to compete in the future.
An important tech trend identified by Gartner for 2021 is the Anywhere Operations business model. This allows for the business to be accessed, delivered and enabled remotely. The trend will push for more digital capabilities and might even result in a world where digital becomes default in many services.
For technologists, that means that this new level of complexity within IT will only increase over the coming months and years. So technologists must find effective and sustainable ways to manage the increasing workload on an ongoing basis.
A big part of this is ensuring they have the right tools to cut through data noise. Technologists require complete and real-time visibility across the whole IT estate, from traditional IT systems to new, hybrid cloud environments.
They need to be able to analyse high volumes of data and easily identify critical issues, so they can prioritize actions and investment based on real-time business impact.
Alongside technical tools, technologists also need to develop new skills and behaviours to manage complexity. They need to adopt a data-driven approach to decision-making, whilst not ignoring their own experience and instincts as technologists.
In the short term, and perhaps most importantly, technologists will need to continue to display the same levels of dedication and resilience that they showed throughout 2020, in the most challenging of circumstances. But business and IT leaders should be doing all they can to alleviate the pressure and protect their wellbeing.
Complexity must not stand in the way
Our research (Agents of Transformation 2021: The Rise of Full-Stack Observability) found that 82% of technologists in Singapore believe that their organization needs to connect full-stack observability to business outcomes within 12 months in order to remain competitive.
But at the moment, many aren’t being given the opportunity to perform as elite technologists, as Agents of Transformation. We cannot continue with a situation where more than three quarters of technologists are unable to deliver the innovation they’d like to because they are not equipped to handle heightened complexity.
The potential consequences are severe, not only for technologists themselves, but for the organisations they work for. If IT experts remain severely hampered in their ability to maintain world-class digital experiences, it will impact customers, employees and, ultimately, the bottom line.
Digital transformation is less about the technology and more about the people.
With growing complexity regardless of industry, business and IT leaders need to act now to tackle IT complexity and ensure technologists have the opportunity to fulfil their potential and create a lasting legacy of innovation within their organisations - securing their positions beyond 2021.
Jim Cavanaugh is VP, Asia-Pacific and Japan, AppDynamics, a Cisco company