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Enterprise Architecture Blog

Discussion focusing on how to manage an enterprise architecture function successfully.

Tuesday
Apr042006

The Absence of Strategy

What do you do if the business has not articulated any objectives for IT? What do you do if the business strategy has not been clearly articulated?

The following short examples show that high level objectives for IT can be identified in a variety of business contexts where there is no clear steer for IT. The process of deriving objectives and working through them with the business will clarify the role of IT.

Case example

Industry - Retail

Business Context - Struggling retailer looking for a buyer

IT Context - legacy applications, aging infrastructure

Appropriate Objectives for IT

  • Secure the operational service
  • Minimal investment in applications and infrastructure to comply with legislation
  • Reserve strategies for assimilation into purchaser, shut down, and systems refresh depending on purchaser

Case example

Industry - Retail

Business Context - Struggling retailer, central costs too high, no clear direction

IT Context - complex legacy applications, complex distributed infrastructure, extensive data duplication, over staffed IT

Appropriate Objectives for IT

  • Secure the operational service
  • Cut headcount and outsource offshore to reduce costs
  • Low level investment in applications and infrastructure to maintain market position and comply with legislation
  • Reserve strategy for systems refresh

Case example

Industry - Retail

Business Context - Struggling retailer, central costs too high, board committed to business transformation

IT Context - complex legacy applications, largely sound and recent infrastructure, partially outsourced, weak development and operations

Appropriate Objectives for IT

  • Secure the operational service
  • Outsource IT completely to improve operations and provide effective development function
  • Low level investment in applications and infrastructure to maintain market position and comply with legislation
  • Strategy for systems refresh to support business transformation

Case example

Industry - Retail

Business Context - Struggling retailer, central costs too high, recent takeover by venture capitalists, no clear direction

IT Context - complex legacy applications, largely sound and recent infrastructure, partially outsourced, weak development and operations

Appropriate Objectives for IT

  • Secure the operational service
  • Cut headcount and outsource offshore to reduce costs
  • Low level investment in applications and infrastructure to maintain market position and comply with legislation
  • Reserve strategy for systems refresh

Case example

Industry - Utility

Business Context - highly cost constrained, looking for external investment

IT Context - suite of packaged applications, up to date infrastructure, operational weaknesses particularly availability, largely outsourced but relationships poor

Appropriate Objectives for IT

  • Improve availability to secure the operational service
  • Low level investment in applications and infrastructure to maintain market position, comply with legislation and maintain integrity of portfolio
  • Improve supplier relations
  • Reserve strategy for opportunistic portfolio improvement

Case example

Industry - Multinational conglomerate

Business Context - NYSE and LSE quoted, SOX compliance issues,

IT Context -mix of legacy and packaged applications, mix of legacy and up to date infrastructure, operational weaknesses particularly availability, largely outsourced but relationships poor, several years of low investment, little cooperation between business units, high infrastructure costs

Appropriate Objectives for IT

  • Improve availability to secure the operational service
  • Major investment in infrastructure to comply with legislation, update and rationalise infrastructure
  • Improve supplier relations
  • Reserve strategy for application rationalisation based on greater reuse between business units

Case example

Industry - Financial Services

Business Context - market leading company, customer services issues following restructure

IT Context - legacy applications supporting business model adequately but difficult for end users, up to date infrastructure

Appropriate Objectives for IT

  • Maintain security of the operational service
  • Application strategy to leverage legacy through "wrapping" and expose functionality via modern UI and workflow

Strategic IT objectives fall out of strategic business objectives. The process only gets difficult when IT leaders try to take the business beyond its objectives. This is a legitimate activity for IT strategists. For enterprise architects, it just means another reserve strategy to develop some high level architecture for.

Given a set of high level objectives for IT, enterprise architects can explore how to achieve them. The key points to understand to get to these objectives are -

  • Organisation ownership and owners financial objectives
  • Major business issues and initiatives
  • Propensity to spend generally and on IT particularly
  • The security of the operational service and the impact of any type of failure
  • Relationships with key suppliers
  • The main options for likely changes of direction
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