9 Warning Signs of Bad IT Architecture

By Bob Lewis May 25th 2012
From kludges to manual re-keying to redundant apps, these are the telltale indicators of an IT environment gone amok.
  • How do you know if your organization has strayed from the path of a coherent architecture management strategy? Here are nine warning signs that bad IT architecture has taken hold of your organization.

  • Manual re-keying: It might not be the biggest cost companies pay from bad architecture, but it’s certainly the most obvious one. Hiring human beings to serve as the interface engine connecting incompatible applications isn’t just expensive; it’s de-humanizing

  • Collection of point solutions: Define “their work” too narrowly and everyone has to visit so many apps that there isn’t enough time to get their work done. Unless IT spends a lot of time building interfaces to connect all of these point solutions, you’re back to re-keying again.

  • Redundant applications: A lot of companies keep lots of redundant applications around, because they overlap but still have a few unique areas they support. At the end of the day, the money spent to support all of this redundancy is pure waste.

  • Redundant data: Very often, different applications need the same information to get their jobs done. You have two choices: Point them all to the same underlying database, which isn’t always possible, or synchronize their separate databases, which is often pretty messy.

  • Too many interfaces: The more systems and databases you have, the more interfaces you end up building. However as good as they are, as they accumulate, your architecture becomes more fragile, and you spend more time managing them instead of building new functionality.

  • Faux-elegant integration: Your developers figure that (1) your solution makes solving the easy problems even easier; and (2) it doesn’t solve the hard problems at all. So instead of arguing with you, they rebuild the same old spiderweb of interfaces, but hide it so you don’t know about it.

  • Kludges and workarounds: Maybe the business sponsor insisted on too short a deadline. Whatever the reason, you wake up one day to discover a lot of your systems are held together with Band-Aids, chewing gum, and duct tape. If you’re lucky, nobody will notice until after you leave.

  • Obsolete technology: It’s mission-critical! What do you mean you have to spend money to maintain it? When you’ve built something on a version of Visual Basic that Microsoft hasn’t supported in a decade, that’s what you mean. You have to spend money to maintain it.

  • White papers: You organize an enterprise technical architecture management group. You hire an expert or two. Of course they’ll change how work gets done in IT. So long, that is, as everyone reads their white papers and follows their instructions.

Chances are someone at some point spent countless brain cycles planning your organization’s IT architecture before handing the grand plan off to someone else to build it out, and then to someone else to maintain it as your computing environment inevitably grew. And, chances also are, somewhere along the line, best intentions faded in the face of expediency, departmental politics, and general mismanagement, eroding what was once a coherent architecture management strategy into an ongoing series of independent, case-by-base decisions about each technical component.

How do you know if your organization has strayed from the path? Here are nine warning signs that bad IT architecture has taken hold of your organization.

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