Introducing a new game, IT Jenga.

The easy button. It’s a great TV commercial, but in the technology world, it isn’t something IT professionals consider. First off because we are talking about, well a Television commercial. Secondly off because it just isn’t plausible.

Things get messy pretty quickly when you are building something. The other day I was driving to work, and I went a direction I don’t usually go. It isn’t that I was trying something new, it was that the usually (fastest) route was having roadwork done. My GPS said it was an hour delay, or I could take the alternate route and shave 45 minutes off my delay. Still a delay but less of one than otherwise. Anyway, I wandered through an area where there were a lot of buildings under construction, both new and renovations.

It struck me as I drove by that construction projects and IT projects are remarkably similar. For example, when you are building a new building, the most important thing to do regardless of building size is to make sure the foundation is solid. When renovating a building, the most important thing to ensure is the integrity of the foundation.

I cannot tell you how many projects I have been on, that I started building the foundation first. At the same time, how many customers looked at me like I was crazy. You can start at the base and work up, or you can start in the middle and build a collapsing tower. That is what I have told every customer that ever asked me, why build from the base up.

It’s not a goal to have a solid foundation. If you don’t your system will topple. IT shops doing migrations, upgrades and transitions are not unlike construction in that if you don’t have a solid base your system will fail. So today I am introducing a new game for all IT professionals out there. The Information Technology game “IT Jenga.” Can you build an IT tower taller without the base becoming so weak the system topples?

clip_image002Authors note Jenga is a game with a tower built of blocks. The goal is to remove blocks from the existing tower and make the tower, taller. The image is ©Lewo Wooden games for kids.

If we consider the reality of IT shops today, there are distinct pressures forcing decisions of the IT team. The first is the reality of cloud computing. Yes, the cloud offers opportunities that haven’t been available before. But it also offers new risks, and since we are taking blocks from our Jenga tower and moving them, the wrong block will destabilize the entire tower. In the game, you roll dice, in the IT world the game doesn’t have dice it just has many more moving pieces.

Going back to the concept I started with a foundation, what is the foundation of IT today? One of the things I have written about, discussed and shared for more than ten years now its he reality of networks. In fact, I would argue that the network is not the foundation IT should hang its hat on. Not that we have better foundations lying outside the network, just that the network probably isn’t the best foundation to use. It is most likely a tootsie pop. Hard outer shell, soft inner candy. Except we are taking the soft, inner candy and pushing it outside the hard candy shell. We are reversing the network that was designed 30 years ago and pushing traffic in new directions.

By the way, in IT Jenga once you remove the one block you have to remove, you will have to put three blocks back on the tower at the top.

Yes, that is the rule for IT Jenga. You take one block out of the existing IT portfolio and replace it with three on top. It means you have to go back to the foundation of your IT systems. You need to know what your base is, how it is built and if possible start making it wider. Cloud computing, SaaS, PaaS, and IaaS are wonderful. They can reduce your cost. They can also drive your IT team crazy.