The Business of IT: The Complexity Challenge

While our professional lives may become inexorably more complex, this affords greater opportunities to learn from each other.

Romi Mahajan

The single biggest factor that dominates our professional lives is complexity. There’s no other word to describe the ethos of constant change, multiple stakeholders and dynamic inputs that has come to define the modern business world.

IT professionals probably understand this more than most. They have to understand it for what it is and work assiduously to learn and adapt. This is essential to meet the challenges that an increasingly complex dynamic brings not only to our work culture, but also the work-life balance we so desperately covet.

The dictionary definition of “complex” reads something like: “composed of many interconnected parts.” In the business world, we’re dealing primarily with humans and their perceptions. Therefore, we’ll modify complexity to mean: “having to simultaneously manage and deal with many interconnected parts and many human agendas.”

Sound familiar? If so, consider the following five tips for managing complexity. The more of these factors you can manage successfully, the less complex and better your life will be:

  1. Identify stakeholders: With every project, map out key internal and external stakeholders. Have a conversation with each to determine what they truly want to accomplish. Manage complexity through active relationship building.
  2. Communicate complexity: Many of us feel our situations are the most difficult. In order to build empathy, you need to communicate clearly. Here, IT can learn from marketing. Communicate often and clearly to build true understanding of your specific complexities.
  3. Find a business mentor: Actively seek education from other parts of the organization.  Understanding how other parts work will help you manage complexity with grace.
  4. Teach liberally: Similarly, others in the company need to learn from you. Do brown-bag seminars, hold webcasts and make yourself available to dispense wisdom. You have more to teach than you might think.
  5. **Build a proactive vocabulary:**It’s incumbent upon each of us to build a strong, assertive vocabulary in which we speak of our imperatives, constraints, challenges and opportunities.  Find an authentic and powerful voice, and when you get your seat at the table, you’ll represent the needs of your organization with finesse.

You can manage complexity through knowledge, communication, empathy and explanation.

The last decade has brought about a sea change in the general perception IT. IT is increasingly the hub around which products, services, sales and support are arrayed. Paradoxically, IT is incessantly being asked to “cut the fat” and “act like a profit center.” That one-two punch of increased complexity and expectations coupled with decrease decision-making power over the provision of resources makes for a toxic situation that too often has IT on the defensive.

The members of the organization who can manage complexity with grace and dignity are the ones who will shine in the medium run. IT professionals can show themselves as a tremendous source of power by addressing the complexity challenge as they address technology or customer challenges—with empathy, a service mentality and by being proactive. That will put any situation in a positive light.

Romi Mahajan

Romi Mahajan is president of KKM Group. Prior to joining KKM, Mahajan was chief marketing officer of Ascentium Corp. A well-known speaker on the technology and media circuit, he serves on a variety of advisory boards and speaks at more than a dozen industry events per year.