Hang the consequences. I want it now!

I’ve seen a worrying tendency lately when speaking to customers. Whatever their sector and whether they’re large or small, organisations seem to be saying “to hell with playing by the rules, we have to do this quickly”.

I’m worried because shortcuts like this rarely pay off in business.

To me, it’s like rushing a new car to market simply to be first with a new design. It looks stunning and performs like a dream, but because you’ve not put enough time and money into development, something critical – like the brakes – aren’t all that great…

Placed in the context of IT, the problem is that companies, in particular large businesses, from banks to airlines, have slipped into a mindset where the “quick win” has become seen the panacea to their business challenges.

But a few weeks down the line, and it’s apparent that the new front-end tool, while working beautifully for the specific purpose it was purchased for, doesn’t integrate with existing systems.

Sometimes it actually duplicates work, or risks compromising confidential data.

Problematic as this is, it’s not very the technology that’s at fault here. Instead, in my experience, it’s the lack of clear thinking amongst both those who procured the new solution and those who implemented it.

At the procurement level, the legitimate – though not always well-articulated – concerns of the IT function about legacy systems are ignored. These are just the guys who keep the lights on, right? When they complain, they’re just proving they’re part of the problem. So systems are implemented with an attitude of “do it now and to hell with the non-functional stuff”, short-cutting the procedures that would prevent some easily anticipated problems from arising.

But this isn’t just the fault of the business, ignoring the benefits that experienced IT professionals can bring to the project. These same professionals themselves need to take a long hard look in the mirror, address and challenge old perceptions, and position themselves as knowledgeable, future-facing catalysts for business change.

With the right people and the right processes, you can still move quickly. But crucially, you get the added benefit that you’re doing it the right way.

So stop putting sticky plaster solutions on systems that are unreliable: either fix them, or change them. Error handling, capacity planning, testing integrations and the like don’t go away just because it’s a mobile app.

The truth is there will always be fashions in technology from mobile apps, windows, social media, and in the future no doubt, Artificial Intelligence and machine learning. But all these changes and developments can be adopted and accommodated if the business plans for change, and has a strategy for its legacy estate right from the start. And for that to happen, the IT function must be central to that plan.

Erlend Asker, VP GCS UK, Nordics and SA.

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