Butler advisory: Act now to take a leadership role in IT strategy, service delivery
Attempts to align IT strategy with an abstract business vision or strategy are doomed to failure according Butler Group , Europe’s leading IT research and advisory organization. In its latest report, IT Strategy and Architecture: Creating an Enterprise Model to Support IT Strategic Planning , Butler Group says to improve competitiveness, companies must urgently address the growing dislocation between the business requirements and IT deliverables. This, it says, is directly impacting the enterprise’s ability to make quick, accurate decisions and is causing slow implementation of the IT strategy.
Enterprise architecture is a comprehensive framework used to manage and align an organization’s IT assets, people, operations, and projects with its operational characteristics. It defines how information and technology will support the business operations and provide benefit for it. It is an important company asset that has to be managed and updated on an ongoing basis to ensure relevance is maintained.
“To successfully adopt Enterprise Architecture there has to be complete buy-in across the entire organization, with an understanding of the allocation of the roles and responsibilities. Technology and business areas within the enterprise must work together to ensure that the architecture keeps in line with the strategic objectives of the company and adequately reflects the IT services available now and planned for the future”, says Mark Blowers, enterprise architectures practice director and coauthor of the study. “The belief is that Enterprise Architecture and engaging with senior management to define a top-level business architecture and enterprise model has become a necessity for any organization wishing to effectively interpret IT strategy, and successfully utilize technology as an enabler for business agility and change.”
Dislodge the dislocation
To provide maximum flexibility, an IT strategy must be developed that is guided by Enterprise Architecture, and which is supported by a services-centric approach, and has its foundation in a common platform. This interlinked approach and use of a layered architecture shields the inherent complexity of the IT environment from users, which, as a consequence, speeds up deployment, lowers the cost of integration, and exploits existing investment in IT applications and infrastructure.
The future direction of IT delivery is moving towards shared services. Therefore, when developing an IT strategy, due consideration must be given to the methods and models likely to be deployed that enable the delivery of IT as a service. When considering how IT will be consumed in organizations the influencing factors include distribution, competence, and flexibility. The impact of these different aspects on an IT strategy focuses attention on what is delivered to whom and when. This may be a combination of different delivery mechanisms to suit the organization’s specific requirements– in other words the belief is that a one-size-fits-all approach will not be appropriate.
“Butler Group believes that at the heart of an end-to-end, architectural approach is a common services platform. The combination of standards-based integration, flexible business processes, unified information, composite applications, and real-time metrics into a services platform is an extremely strong proposition, enabling an evolutionary approach to linking business processes to enterprise databases, legacy systems, line-of-business applications, and external services”, continues Blowers.
“IT trends play a significant role in the architecting of any organizational infrastructure, and therefore by implication the IT strategy. In the past, trends such as the Internet, client/server, and wireless communications have all caused organizations to make step changes that created disruption for the organization during transition. The issue with these previous trends is that many organizations did not plan to deploy the technology initially, but were forced to implement due to prevailing market conditions and the need for organizations to remain competitive.”
Many architecture modeling solutions have previously failed to meet the needs of an important constituency– the senior business decision-maker. Complex modeling solutions lack a way of presenting a sufficiently abstract and easy-to-change view of the enterprise, especially when it comes to the aggregation and analysis of data relating to architecture, strategy, and operations. Many decision-makers typically turn to the ubiquitous spreadsheet for such capabilities – an approach that is less than ideal, lacking as it does vital elements of control, governance, and collaboration. However, there are indications that Enterprise Architecture is starting to be used as more of a strategic tool by theentire organization.
Whilst organizations have benefited from establishing reference architectures, and cascading requirements and constraints to downstream activities, Enterprise Architecture, as a discipline, still lacks the data- and performance analytics-driven approach that is slowly becoming pervasive in IT. Without a fact-based assessment of each architecture option, Enterprise Architecture is prone to be guided by opinion, which can prove relatively expensive, be open to manipulation, and sometimes inefficient.
Blowers concludes: “The more innovative Enterprise Architecture tools are now able to do comparisons using various different metrics and are developing ways of integrating real-time or near real-time operational data with the architecture, blending the models with interactive components and actions, as well as domain-specific method and content.”