The Coral Reef Phenomenon

March 6th, 2015 || No Comments

coral-reef-phenomenonThe natural beauty and colorful vibrancy of the world’s coral reefs is undeniable; their visual appeal is visceral. Some would say we all have a primal connection to these complex, living structures.

But what do these natural wonders have to do with information technology?

Consider the anecdotally familiar attributes of coral reefs:

  • Large, extremely complex, and very embedded structures comprised of the exoskeletons of countless microorganisms, layers upon layers over millions of life-cycle generations.
  • An extraordinarily fragile monument of microstructures so brittle even the slightest pressure can crush it and kill its living micro-inhabitants.
  • These organic forms expand randomly, without an intentional plan (or “architecture”), until an environmental or other force intrudes.
  • Any attempt to landscape, modify, or move these massive, living structures, even for their own good, is impossible.
  • Every reef is unique and cannot be exactly reproduced elsewhere, regardless of effort and expense.
  • The balance of life throughout the reef is delicate. The environment can become inhospitable, or even fatal, from even minor variations in temperatures, tides, solar influences, and countless other environmental changes.

Sound familiar?

Do you recognize similar patterns in your legacy systems? The parallels are astonishing once the analogy sinks in.

For more than 20 years, I have been finding solutions to challenging legacy environments. In nearly every instance, the business issues created by these systems feel unfailingly similar to the plight of our coral reefs.

At some point in the past, the “Legacy Reef” appeared. The “founders” lay down the first layer of the reef, a thing of beauty and uniqueness. All the original stakeholders admired the sleek form as it took shape with the first hopeful excretions. New layers were added as the fledgling firm reached for new clients, new revenues, new markets and new rounds of funding… you get the idea.
Unfortunately, along the way, several crustaceans moved into our haphazardly evolving “Legacy Reef,” often in the form of passing contractor developers, point solutions, ill-advised outsourcers, and client-specific “crap-timizations.”

Somewhere things went haywire…

Often, in the middle of the organization’s growth, what started as an organic work of art spirals into random expansion, without a specific plan, charter, or architecture to guide it through long-term business expansion and operational dependencies.

My involvement with Legacy Reefs typically starts when a founder, investor, or other business stakeholder recognizes the need for a fresh pair of qualified eyes on the business. A focused technology assessment takes place to discover and untangle the morass of constraints that bind the organization and inhibit forward business momentum.

Often, the in-depth assessment leads to updating and/or replacing current technology and working collaboratively with the client’s tech team to peel back layers of dependencies. Eventually, we establish a clear technology roadmap for migrating the Legacy Reef to a custom technology solution, built on a clear vision of the future state of the business.

… a shiny new home where future “Nemos” and gang can thrive.

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