It's called Moore's Flaw, the flip side of the famous axiom that has driven the furious pace of IT innovation for several decades.
Moore's Law (in one of its many formulations) states that computing capability increases 1% per week. Moore's Flaw posits that keeping up with this flood tide of innovation quickly becomes too difficult (and too costly) for anyone to manage.
"IT complexity acts as a significant tax on IT value," says Bob Zukis, a partner at PricewaterhouseCoopers. It's those organisations that "have managed complexity out of their environments that are reaping the value from their IT spends."
Even more important, businesses that successfully address complexity can be more agile because their systems don't get in the way of business process change.
"When you reduce complexity, you increase your ability to implement new solutions," says André Mendes, CIO of the Special Olympics.
"Complexity leads to brittleness and high costs," notes Frank Modruson, CIO of Accenture. "But if you get your technology cleaner, you can serve the business more easily."
Today, all CIOs are standing in the path of a fire hose spewing complexity. And many are getting soaked.
Within IT, factors that increase complexity include outsourcing management, the adoption of Web and consumer technologies, support for mobile workforces, developing and managing technology architectures and governance for those workforces, and ensuring security in a distributed environment.
Outside of IT's direct control, complexity is increased by the requirements of compliance, the need to support global business, and the speed and depth of access to information demanded by your customers and your partners.
CIOs can-with difficulty-handle these challenges individually, one at a time. But in the real world CIOs face many, if not all, of these challenges, all at once, over and over. "That's why you need a strategy to keep complexity out of the environment, not just have knee-jerk responses," Modruson says.