Hysterical growth - and now? 

 January 15, 2024

"Sometimes you have to go through it: A deep dive through the sh** and come up with a gold nugget."

Richard Seidl


Hysterical growth - and now?

It's always a shame. I visit companies and see their IT and software landscapes. But instead of the beautiful floodplain, where the meadows are lush, the orchards productive and the front gardens well-tended, I see Mordor, with sulphurous swamps, ash-covered land and infertile soil. And every now and then an orc peeks around the corner.

Adapters are still being added to outdated systems that hardly anyone can maintain, so that data can be moved around
and across. Batches and jobs transform databases with dubious data quality. And if a system doesn't fit in at all, an equally complex wrapper is developed and placed on top. The overall architecture is not worthy of the name because each system is highly interlinked with the others and somehow lives in symbiosis.

And then there is the desire to introduce DevOps and CI/CD now. But the systems are so interdependent that you don't even know where to start. So a few isolated solutions are tried out and the rest remains as it is for the time being.

Unfortunately, this is not an isolated case and is particularly common in larger companies. And instead of addressing the issue, they distract themselves: with agile transformation (which also quickly reaches its limits in this setting) or, more recently, with AI. But neither solves the real problem: the legacy of the last 20 to 30 years. On the contrary: the whole rangeflansche creates even more technical debt.

Unfortunately, I have yet to meet a company that seriously dares to go through this valley of tears, i.e. that puts energy, effort and money into dealing with the hazardous waste of the past (please feel free to contact me with any counter-examples!).

Admittedly, there are of course some arguments against it:

  • Features: Complexity reduction would be possible in many places. Only "Maybe someone will need this feature again" or "We don't even know if and who else uses it - we'd better leave it in". Even if the cost-benefit calculation shows that the feature is better off, a message comes from behind: "But I need it". And it remains.
  • Politics: Surprisingly often, these initiatives are not prevented by technical restrictions, but by unwillingness. Ultimately, it's all about power. Whether project, team, department or division manager - everyone has their claim, their budget, their responsibility. The holistic view of an IT landscape is then quickly lost. Coalitions, trench warfare, proxy conflicts and a lack of assertiveness can be observed across the board.
  • ROI: With AI and agility, it is quite easy to calculate short-term benefits. This is difficult when dealing with legacy systems. Ultimately, nothing new is created. The systems can do the same or less (because they are not needed) than before - albeit probably more efficiently, transparently and sustainably.

So why should you do it at all? For me, there are many factors in favor of it - but short-term profit is not one of them. And that is probably also the problem. But the added value created by software today is about more: the long-term survival of the company, attractiveness for new employees, scalability and flexibility. I don't think many companies realize that their "value" actually lies in the software, be it banks, insurance companies or energy companies.

Well, I'm not giving up hope that there will be more movement in the sector and that some gold nuggets will come to light.