Saturday, March 13, 2010

Risky Business

When I look back over my career in IT, I realize that I’ve been involved in sales long before I decided to join Compellent. Every strategic initiative I pushed for over the years has involved a great deal of salesmanship, evangelization and consensus building. Technologies that are common place today got there, in large part, because someone on the front lines identified a trend, thought about how it could help them drive value for the business and started putting a case together for adopting the new technology in their own data center.

I recall years ago, as an IT administrator for a regional bank, suggesting that we drop our Token-Ring network topology for new branch office rollouts in favor of Ethernet. Seems like a no brainer now but at the time there was a lot of concern about the risk associated with making a directional change like that. The concerns were typical (and justified) of any shop faced with the prospect of doing things in a new way. Will our applications behave differently? Are there hidden costs associated with the change? How will support be impacted? Will this introduce complexity?

No Escape
Change is a difficult and necessary part of IT life, and it carries risk. However, there is no escape from risk because NOT adapting and changing also carries risk. Sometimes changes are forced upon you by other entities (government regulations), circumstances (mergers and acquisitions) or drivers (remember Y2K?) beyond your control.

Managing risks due to change on a tactical level involves policies and procedures to establish controls and checkpoints as well as contingency plans. On a strategic level, I think the best way to reduce risk is through simplicity.

Avoid Complexity
One thing I quickly learned as an IT manager was that complexity is your enemy – always. Complexity, in my opinion, is the offspring of laziness and the cousin of carelessness. The more complex your environment, the more difficult and costly to manage and adapt to changes which means that you have one big ass cloud of risk hanging over your head.

The opposite of complexity in the data center is elegance. A solution that is simple to understand, manage and maintain and is effective at lowering costs and delivering service is an elegant solution. Compellent’s Fluid Data Architecture is one such elegant solution and I know this because every time I do a demo for a prospective customer they light up – they understand how elegant our solution is.

Spare Some Change?
On March 24th from 2-3PM CT you’ll have an opportunity to chat with one of our customers, Ben Higginbotham of I’ll moderate a Twitter chat with Ben on the topic of change and risk in IT. Here are the details. I hope you’ll join and ask questions or share your own success or lessons learned.

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