Frankenstein's monster and IT upgrades

February 20, 2015
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Victor Frankenstein was not a standards guy.

The mad scientist built his monster from spare parts Igor found lying around. At the end of a dark and stormy night, Victor had cobbled together a collection of pieces that more or less worked the way he intended . . . for a while. Then things began falling apart.

Compare Frankenstein’s monster to any business today and you’ll find many similarities, from core business processes to IT. Part of my job is to analyze business environments and recommend growth plans and improvements. What I frequently see are inevitable symptoms of having a growing, evolving business: workstations are upgraded, but not the server; the server is upgraded, but not the networking; the networking needs to be upgraded but because of cost, only 80 percent is upgraded versus the whole thing. Whatever pieces are left behind – whatever’s not part of the modernization and upgrades — those pieces are made to fit into the new environment and tweaked until they work properly . . . for a while. Then things start falling apart.

As a business grows, it’s not possible to completely redesign all related business aspects each time an improvement is needed. Instead, it’s more common to get a solution and incorporate it into the whole.

The longer this process goes on, the more likely you have an environment that is “Frankenstein’d” together. Most pieces work well, but some don’t. Overhead is added to the system. The bones start to crack.

One must always deal with legacy environments, people and processes — it’s an inevitable part of a changing business and a changing world. Of course grow and develop, but don’t forget to refresh. Make the effort to retire old aspects of your business as you build new ones. This is business process improvement. This is upgrading to better standards adherence. This is actively evolving your company to its next level of operational maturity.

The end of the Frankenstein story is where the analogy fails, as a normal 2015-era business is rarely powered by revenge and townspeople with pitchforks. But the point should be clear: It’s difficult to evolve a business “cleanly,” and the result is that many established businesses have layers upon layers; old parts connected to new parts. Eventually you need a new look at the big picture or you’ll be forced to do so. What IT aspects should a modern business have to increase the chance of success? Deal with your foundation before it starts to crumble.

Designing and implementing your company’s refreshed IT environment is a greater task than anything performed by Victor Frankenstein. But it needs to be done.

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