Beware the IT Midlife Crisis

beware, IT, mid-life, crisis.It’s happening at a record rate. Twenty years, thirty years into a successful long-term relationship, something snaps.  All of a sudden, that hot young thing that everyone’s talking about looks a lot better than the reliable, predictable world back home.  You’re not unhappy.  After all, you’ve grown up with what you have, you’ve seen each other through good times and bad—evolving, maturing through the years.

Now, that just doesn’t seem like enough.  You want to change everything.  You want cloud, you want mobility and you want them now. And, to get them, you’re ready to cast aside everything you’ve built; the systems you’ve worked so hard to evolve—just like that. It’s the IT equivalent of the midlife crisis, minus the sports car, the spray tans and indiscretions. And it’s happening everywhere.

Don’t think for a second that I’m underestimating the value of cloud or the positive impact it can make. Cloud offers tremendous advantages in terms of scalability, agility and the time required to spin up or spin down an environment.  But, as alluring and exciting as cloud is, it is an infrastructure play; part of a comprehensive IT strategy but not the end-all, be-all.

Translation: it’s still all about what your applications need to do their job. And sometimes, that’s the old, boring, reliable SUV instead of the new-model-year two-seater.

The Fantasy vs. The Reality

In the traditional IT environment, change happens in slower, more methodical increments. To take advantage of new functionality, we moved some things from mainframe to mid-range, or from client-server to web,  much like the movement through human relationships—marriage, house, kids—at a pace that fits the natural order of things.

The new style of IT is disruptive. Not only are engagements faster, but they are fundamentally different for the simple fact that IT doesn’t always maintain control over the environment.  Mainframe was like shooting an arrow at a rock; mid-range was like shooting an arrow at a bear, but cloud is like shooting an arrow at a swarm of bees.  It’s not an eight- or nine-year evolution—it’s a “take action now, move fast” proposition. Without proper planning, the migration could happen before anyone looks objectively at the expected results.

The fantasy? Everything’s faster, newer, better in cloud.

The reality?  Companies can typically benefit by moving some applications to the cloud but rarely the full portfolio.

This is not to say that companies can’t run more apps in the cloud; anything will run if it meets the system requirements. But, cloud for the sake of cloud could leave you paying for functionality that you’ll never use. It’s like taking the Corvette to pick up your kids from school. Although you’ll look cool, it’s just not practical. And, do you really need that agility and power to drive in a 20-mile-an-hour school zone?

Let’s look at the facts.

If you’re doing batch processing in the middle of the night and have already scaled to capacity, you’re not going to gain a thing by moving to the cloud. You could actually pay more for flexibility and scalability you don’t need.

If your environment functions at 85 percent capacity consistently, without seasonal fluctuations or a projected increase in demand, there’s no reason to move to cloud, unless you anticipate something changing.  Again, you’ll be paying for zero-to-90 for an application that never needs to go faster than 35 miles an hour.

If you have applications that do require dynamic bursting and can benefit from all that cloud has to offer, by all means, make the move—knowing that you may have to transform those applications first so they can fully utilize the new environment. But, instead of shooting arrows at bees, make that transition part of a single strategy, with help from a provider who understands both the traditional and new style IT worlds.

Just as important, while you’re moving forward with cloud, don’t start neglecting (or stop investing in) those not-so-sexy systems running in the background, or you could put the applications that form the very foundation of your business at risk.

Seek Counseling First 

 It is not surprising how many technology pros are going through the IT midlife crisis these days. Every blog, every magazine, every online resource is talking about cloud and mobility, increasing the allure with every new post or publication.

But, before you open your wallet or dramatically alter your operation, seek counseling. Sit down with a trusted advisor who has experience with both the traditional technology as well as cloud, mobile and other new style offerings. Get the reality check. Then decide what you really want to do.

HP, for example, offers Transformation to Cloud workshops where our team works with client IT organizations to identify objectives, review the current portfolio, and identify which applications could benefit the company most by moving to cloud. Then, we build a business case for those potential transformations, with a roadmap that encompasses the quick hits through the longer-term transitions.

The idea is this: work with someone who can provide an objective opinion before you dive in. You may need the minivan, not the sports car. Or, you may be ready to hit the open road. Make your decisions based on the reality of your enterprise, not the fantasy of the hot, new thing.

Also look at how the movement to cloud impacts security. You don’t want account numbers or sensitive information to go beyond your firewall, unless you’ve fully vetted the provider, compliance concerns and risk.  It’s not a deal breaker but another step in the process: moving to  the new style IT without losing security within the application itself.

The bottom line? Be smart.  Get help. Recognize that, as much of a disrupter as cloud is, as much of an enabler as mobility is, these technologies still have to add value to the apps in your portfolio. This isn’t always the case. Find an objective voice who will tell it like it is, not promote an illusion.

Find Success In a Blended World

Here’s the reality: no one wants to be old school. No one wants to be static and boring, particularly in a world where “in the moment” are the watchwords of the day.

The good news is you can have it all—the best that the new style technologies have to offer and the reliability of the traditional technologies where they make the most sense. Trade the old for the new unconditionally, and you’ll fall victim to the IT midlife crisis—with ramifications that will continue on for years to come.

Yes, the new style technologies are enticing, and they’ve breathed new life into IT environments everywhere. But, before you make your move, assess the facts. Make informed choices.

Who knows? What you’ve had all along may be the very thing you need.


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