Jacob Marley as Chief Technologist

Michael Vizard

As the holiday season approaches we are inevitably treated to the usual wave of theatrical releases with Christmas themes. But this year comes a new rendition of 'A Christmas Carol' starring Jim Carrey.

Based on the classic story from Charles Dickens, this timeless tale features one character that chief technologists should be able to universally identify with: Jacob Marley.

If you have forgotten the tale, Marley returns as a ghost to warn Ebenezer Scrooge to change his miserly ways. In retribution for not heeding this advice himself, Marley has been condemned to wear a heavy load of chains that he forged in life link by link through eternity.

Anybody who runs a significant amount of IT infrastructure feels Marley's pain. The biggest challenge chief technologists have is the sheer weight of all the IT investments that have gone before. It's practically impossible to get rid of them all, and yet each one represents a link in a chain that collectively can crush innovation.

But we live in a time where IT infrastructure is being reinvented and the way we think about using enterprise software is being redefined. That means the real challenge chief technologists often face is helping their organizations throw off the yoke of the past that all too often only serves to make the organization less competitive.

We all know that's a very tall order. And there is a natural inclination not to fix things that appear to be working. But that's the issue. Most things in IT, even when they appear to be working, are found to be fundamentally flawed in one way or another upon closer examination.

It's the job of the chief technologist to indentify and fix those issues. That might not always make them the most popular person in the organization. But for all the grief that this might entail, it sure beats trying to carry 40 years or more of legacy IT investments -- all forged one link at a time -- into the future.

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