A number of years ago now, I visited a customer who said they had more than 800,000 applications. Now their definition of an application as a database in Lotus Domino so it was a little on the lighter side of applications but still more applications than people. In fact while at Microsoft I compiled statistics of “notes db’s or applications” to users and over the 4 years I kept the stats I found roughly .25 unique notes databases per users in shops that have Lotus Domino Deployed (the same is true by the way for SharePoint sites, I surveyed a few customers with 2 and 3 SharePoint sites per user).
So IT Sprawl is first and foremost exactly the problem of both cost and confusion. We could (and I have a number of times) argue that confusion adds additional cost beyond what you are paying for the maintenance of the overall solution today.
Confusion represents someone having to make more than 2 or 3 decisions about what and where to look for. In the book Transitional Services there is an IP management system outlined called Document Lifecycle Management or DLM©. the goal of a KM system like DLM© is to answer questions. A single source of reliable structured information that focuses on building and harvesting IP with the intention of providing an authoritative answer to problems or questions.
However the more places users have to go to get the information they need the more confusion sets in. This brings about an affect of IT Sprawl that I call Solution Confusions. Or to put it in a small easy to remember phrase “where do I go to find out what I need to know.”
The other side – the more applications anyone has to know the more confusing the IT environment is. The end result of IT Sprawl is the reality of “Solution Confusion.”
Now the reality of marketing sets in. All of the various vendors that are running around selling stuff to you, are going to tell you that they have in fact solved the problem of IT Sprawl with their latest and greatest application.
Microsoft Office has a number of features and functions that users don’;t even know exist. Why? Well you are argue the reality of training budgets and deployment schedules and variances between versions of software but the biggest reality? IT doesn’t always know what is deployed.
Sure they know that they have deployed the Swiss army knife Microsoft Office. But what does and can office do? The reality of the functional world is that IT doesn’t always know the features that are deployed.
So we end up with Solution Confusion and IT Sprawl working together to make it harder to do your job.
No wonder people get frustrated and throw their computers out the window…