release of four bunches of balloons
PHOTO: Ankush Minda

Earlier this year, Marie Kondo became an international sensation with her hit Netflix show “Tidying Up with Marie Kondo,” in which the author and design consultant inspired families to transform their lives by letting go of clutter. Among the many reasons the show resonated so strongly with viewers is that, to some extent or another, we can all relate to holding on to things we simply don’t need. That fancy piece of gym equipment we’re definitely maybe going to start using. The dishes we got all those years ago as a wedding gift. That pile of books now commandeering an entire room.

While we often think about decluttering at home, we rarely think about doing the same with our business technology. Maybe it’s time we should. After all, we’re coming to the end of a decade in which the pace of innovation increased exponentially, and there’s a good chance you’ve accumulated a healthy pile of tech clutter along the way. At first glance, all of that clutter might seem harmless. But as Kondo has taught us, only after you eliminate clutter do you realize how much it was holding you back. As you continue through the process of transforming your business for the digital era, letting go may well be the key to taking off.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at four areas of the technology landscape where we might be holding on to more than we need.

How Many Databases Do You Really Need?

In the early part of the decade, the database market expanded rapidly, with the proliferation of new unstructured data types giving rise to a wave of NoSQL databases built for the modern era. Alongside the traditional relational database stalwarts that had long dominated the market, companies suddenly had numerous options from which to choose, and many expanded their database infrastructure accordingly.

Now, however, as near the end of the decade, the database market is starting to consolidate. Perhaps it’s time for you to think about doing the same. Take stock of your database investments and ask yourself which platforms are truly essential to your business, and which, if any, are really just clutter. Simplifying your database infrastructure can help you reign in costs while ultimately making it easier to manage and leverage your data. Speaking of which …

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Let Go of Unnecessary Data

It’s been written time and again that data is the lifeblood of the modern business. Heck, I myself wrote numerous articles to that very effect. And to be clear, data is absolutely still the most valuable asset in the modern business world — aside from people, of course.

But as the volume of data you generate and the velocity at which you generate it continues to increase, there inevitably comes a point where capturing and tracking all of your data is no longer possible. And that’s OK. Because while the idea of leveraging “all data” might read well on marketing collateral, rare is the business that truly needs to derive insight from every single piece of data it generates. Not only is attempting to capture and analyze all of your data highly impractical, it might also be downright detrimental. When you constantly have to weed through data you don’t need, it makes it that much more difficult to identify and pull value out of the data you do need.

Once again, now is a great time to take an honest look at the data you’re collecting and storing, and ask yourself if it’s truly providing value to your business. If the answer is no, letting go and freeing yourself to focus on the data that really matters might be just the boost your business needs.

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Clean Out Old Reports and Queries

Everyone loves a good report (and modern dashboarding tools have made them even more lovable). It’s not surprising then that business and technology leaders are loathe to discard reports. We always think we’re going to need them again at some point down the road, and in some cases, we do. But we need to strike a balance between holding onto select reports that might one day prove a useful reference, and hoarding every single report we create with no exceptions or boundaries.

If you’re holding onto each and every report simply for the sake of doing so, you’re not only creating a significant workload for those charged with cataloging and maintaining those reports, but you’re also running the risk of a dated report being taken out of context and incorrectly interpreted. 

The same is true of queries. We’re often so busy trying to formulate and ask the next question that we forget (or simply don’t bother) to clear out previous questions. This invariably leads to one query becoming conflated with another, and before we know it, we’re asking more questions than ever, none of which are the right ones.

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Maintain Your Test Suites

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: testing is the foundation of digital transformation. Given the importance of continuous testing to the delivery of flawless web and mobile applications, it can be mighty tempting to never discard any tests. After all, you might want to run them again at some point, and isn’t it easy enough to just append your test suite with additional tests without ever discarding the initial ones?

The answer might be yes, but “easy enough” is rarely the best practice, and it’s certainly not in this case. The most important aspect of any testing initiative is the quality of your tests (i.e., do they pass with regularity and are the results reliable?), and one of the best ways to ensure test quality is through proper maintenance of your test suites, and that means being diligent about discarding tests that are no longer relevant to a particular suite.

Small But Transformative Changes

One of Marie Kondo’s most oft-quoted phrases is that tidying up your physical space allows you to tend to your psychological space. The same concept can apply to your business. By decluttering your infrastructure and making your technology footprint simpler to manage, you can more readily and effectively focus on the innovation and transformation your business needs to succeed in the digital age.