Beware of IT inertia — Storage Soup Blog by Randy Kerns

By , Wednesday, February 8th 2012

Categories: Analyst Blogs

Tags: complexity,

In information technology, the part of Newton’s laws of motion regarding inertia where a body at rest tends to stay at rest is often prevalent. In IT, this law means changes are increasingly difficult to make because change is often resisted. Resistance to change means missed opportunities to integrate new technologies, improve processes and become more effective.

The reasons for resistance can be rationalized effectively by management making excuses. That does not mean these reasons are correct, it just puts perspective on why seemingly incomprehensible choices are made that defy logic when considered in the entirety of IT management.

I’ve heard these reasons for not making a strategic change:

Avoidance of risk. Making a change to introduce a new technology introduces risk of some type. The risk is really about potential failure and the implications of that failure on the organization and the people making the decision.

Inability to schedule the time to implement a new technology or process. “We don’t have time to do this” is a common explanation for not doing something. The conversation goes into limited budgets for staffing and not enough people to take on the extra work. The advantages that might be gained by the implementation are typically dismissed out of hand.

Limited budget to invest in the technology. The blame for this is usually placed on “executive management” or “the business” making choices that would limit IT’s ability to invest in new technology.

IT decision makers want to wait until other organizations have proven the technology works. There usually is some justification here because we all know of past products and technologies that did not last for an extended period of time. Organizations want assurance that they are not investing in a transient technology. In IT, the time expectation for something new is perceived to be 10 years.

Complexity introduced into IT over time increases risk or makes change more difficult. This means that over time, the effort to avoid complexity proves too great and causes a greater resistance to change in the future.

The negatives for resisting new technologies or new procedures in IT are easy to argue with. Many new technologies can bring value to organizations that properly implement them. These include tiered storage systems with solid-state drive (SSD) technology, storage virtualization, scale-out NAS storage, data reduction technologies, IT as a Service, and ‘big data’ analytics. To not move forward with technologies and processes that will have staying power means missing economic advantages. The lack of advances in IT can have a parallel effect on the IT leadership.

Changes will have to be made eventually, and may be more costly the longer they are put off. I recently heard about an organization looking to replace a data center because it was more than eight-years-old. The justification was that the efficiency gain of a new data center was worth the financial investment. That might be true statistically, but it does not seem to be an intelligent overall investment. Evolving through the introduction of new technologies, improvements in changing procedures, and educating IT personnel has to be a better answer than a complete discard and start over

But if the barriers – the arguments given to avoid introduction of technology or change – are so overwhelming and inhibit greater efficiencies, it may be the path of least resistance. The force on a body at rest — the inertia of IT to not do something new — may not have enough impact to start the motion forward. Education on the technologies and economic advantages need to have the net force to move IT forward.

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