I am not sure who coined the phrase “Frankenstack” in reference to the common place mix and match of technology that most organisations seem to have today, but it’s a phrase I have heard many times now. It is normally seeming to be uttered from the mouths of IT consultants describing a complex system architecture that all hangs upon the precipice of total collapse, when faced with the simplest of change request from a line of business. Boo hiss…. rumble of thunder….. cue the villagers with pitchforks….

As an aside Frankenstein was always my favourite monster. I had a small affair with Wolfman, driven by a probably to early viewing of “An American Werewolf in London”, but I always come back to Frankenstein. A simple fascination with beings that could be created out of the best/strongest/most intelligent parts of humans to create a powerful superhuman. Awesome. Anyway this is a technology blog so I won’t dwell on movies or novels too long however I am drawn to speak out in defence of the misunderstood Frankenstack.

So why does he/it exist?


Organisations have been working in silo’s for years. Each area, line of business, division, often siloed with their own P&L and an ability to act with freedom and independence of each other area – technology acquisition occurs in these silo’s and with good practice is overseen by IT, but more often than not bi-passed. This creates this monster of parts, all probably very good in their own area but as a combination stitched & patched together and not always serving the common good. With too much fragility in the interdependency.

Stages of Maturity

Also the mix in business maturity can compound silo’s within organisations. Like a family each individual in various stages of maturity, often for good commercial reason, but this will also mean the different areas are in different stages of maturity in terms of technology. In addition, the advent of the clouds has led to a greater ability to operate outside of an IT function and therefore not have to communicate across the business functions and other silo’s, this also can increase the risks of dysfunction.

Jokingly, Innovation (the cool kid) is like “all Cloud and Open Source and wide eyed wonder” going in one direction…

Operational Systems (the wise cautious old man) is like “what the feck is that! Cognativewhootawattty!” “How do we govern and control that?” – pulling in another…

Service & Sales (middle aged down with the kids) is just pants down crazy because they have been dealing with innovation and operational systems and don’t know what to use or who to trust…

Marketing & Brand (hip but angsty teenager) is all “can we just get something out the door?” This guy/lady from Adobe/Marketo/Salesforce seems really nice…..!”

So why is this all a problem? If the business is functioning? Why worry?

Simply, your customers, consumers, donors and members expect a seamless joined up experience. An ignored Frankenstack does not help you here. The core issues are:

  • The inability to change things quickly because of the unknown downstream dependencies. Each change turns into a big project.
  • Silo’s of knowledge in each area with single points of knowledge and poor or limited documentation lead to a degree of uncertainty again effecting point 1.
  • As there is no one total owner of data, infrastructure and integration – multiple heads across multiple business units creates a “many eyes” situation. No-one is watching because everyone thinks everyone else is. Leading to confusion over who owns the customer.
  • All of the above lead to areas falling out of sync with each other in terms of the experience the customer is getting.


Lean in to “Frankenstack”

There are some tips for making sure that the monster becomes the superhuman he was destined to be. First rule of Monster Squad. Don’t fear the monster. Then……

1) Create or combine to form a centre of integration excellence, information and change –  Information Management, Security, Fraud Prevention, Best Practice can all be managed here but also change. It doesn’t have to be a separate department but a virtual area created to overlap the silos. Key roles that have obligations and understanding of the other areas.

2) Strong documentation around legacy, current and future systems and how they connect, their function and capability – make it easy for everyone to know how it works. If this isn’t there its worth investing in getting this done. A good easily accessible system of record is worth its weight in gold.

3) Focus on making sure systems and software can be plugged in and switched, where possible, without big integration being required. Have ownership of the data lake, warehouse and master data management platform. Most businesses do not want to be beholden to one technology vendor so create an environment that makes this easy.

4) Keep replacing when limbs when they get tired. If 1 & 2 & 3 are effectively in place, then there should be no fear in removing and replacing.

5) Don’t fear clouds or private clouds working with internal systems just remember 1&2&3.

Talk to us : if you are interested in a ‘tech stack review’ or  you like monster movies or you have any other data and marketing technology challenges – we’d love to hear from you.

Written by Dan Telling 

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