Businesses in the Nordic countries are subject to many of the same pressures as their counterparts elsewhere. As we move towards an economy that is more service and knowledge based—and increasingly digitised—the qualities of speed, flexibility and agility all become imperatives for success. Businesses need to be ready to pivot quickly to embrace new opportunities and stand up new business models.
The need to change quickly and acquire new capabilities at scale is par of the reason why the ‘New IT’ is attracting a great deal of interest and attention in the market. And for good reason. The term describes the ways that businesses can create IT capabilities to support the rapid changes driven by the increasingly digital economy. The need for speed, responsiveness and agility are all paramount. The New IT is software driven and emphasizes applications that are liquid, connected and intelligent. It encompasses greater use of cloud, as-a-service applications, platforms and infrastructure and, for example, adopting innovations such as Agile and DevOps for continuous delivery. Together these offer the promise of more speed, greater responsiveness and lower cost.
And while the New IT is an exciting prospect, making use of what it has to offer comes with some big challenges. And principal among these is how it fits with legacy systems and the existing IT estate. In other words, the big challenge is working out how "new" and "old" IT can best work together.
Businesses that rush to embrace the "new" IT without thinking carefully about their existing technology estate may come to regret their haste. While the new IT seems to offer the opportunity to escape the complex tangles of interconnected systems that most businesses have developed over many years, the freedom will be for a short time only if the question of how to manage legacy and new together is ignored. Building new on top of old will, in fact, create more complexity.
So what should businesses do? Clearly, getting rid of the existing IT estate and starting from scratch would impose too high a cost for any business to contemplate. But failing to move forward at the speed demanded by the new digital economy will be just as costly. The disruptive competition, i.e. digital ‘natives, is unencumbered by any legacy. They are in essence built only on the New IT. So their traditional counterparts need to work out how the old and the new can productively co-exist. Simplifying wherever possible is essential.
The promise of the New IT is the capability to do just that. The business will be keen to take advantage of those possibilities. But without a controlled approach in place, adding new to the old will simply store up trouble for the future.
To avoid that requires taking a very critical view of the architecture and structure that the New IT creates. Rather than simply agreeing to the business’s requirements for new features and functionality, IT needs to take a more proactive approach to managing the journey ahead. And that may mean saying ‘no’ to the business on occasions in order to avoid the inevitable complexity that will arise from adding more and more on top of existing systems. There are no shortcuts to achieving the optimal structures for new and old. It will be a long journey. But to make the journey as success a new approach and mindset for managing the old IT will be just as important as embracing the new IT itself.