Aligning IT with the Business
IT is changing with an increasing impact on business operations. But where does an company start when it comes to arming itself against changing legislation and regulations? Whatever you do with IT, it must yield relevant business information.
Pragmatic Approach of Architecture
Delivering value to the company starts with a pragmatic IT approach. Let people experience the possibilities of IT. IT must always connect to a (latent) functional need. Make sure you’re able to look at things from the perspective of the business and get a good idea of the market your company is active. Based on this, you can deliver functionality. To experience is to convince.
The realization of this experience demands an IT company and landscape with a high level of flexibility, speed, and ability to adapt. Often, this means that you place tasks with the owner, create a good idea of the need for information, and retrieve this information from the source. With proper safeguarding of the central basic architecture, it’s possible to further distinctive business domains from a decentralized architectural model. In doing so, the agility and the autonomy of the business domains are much better supported and, at the same time, the connection with the central architecture is safeguarded. Giving everyone the opportunity to contribute to the architecture
Sharing of knowledge, uniformization, and standardization are essential to architectural thinking for decentralization. Look for the matters that allow you to better your company socially, to learn from each other, without the deployment of redundant processes and resources. Architecture has three levels on which standardization is possible; process level, application & IT-technical level, and data level. Additionally, you constantly aim to achieve maximum efficiency and adaptiveness. How do you go about this?
In 2014, Gartner launched the term bimodal-IT. Bimodal IT is the managing of two separate, coherent models of IT delivery. Mode 1 is more traditional and focused on security and accuracy, while Mode 2 is more innovative and less linear, with a focus on agility and speed. In mode 1, you mainly work from the notion of centrality. From this central model, you have the option of using decentralization in mode 2 to increase your agility and flexibility. Gartner terms Bimodal IT the only durable solution for IT in an increasingly faster changing digital world.
- Mode 1 revolves around non-distinctive IT. Think of an ERP system, your data center, workplace, e-mail traffic, or the way your intranet is designed. These systems don’t have any direct influence on your products or services and are not part of the way you distinguish yourself from competitors. Therefore, it might be experienced as boring. Nothing could be further from the truth, however! After all, this serves as the very foundation of your business. Particularly these systems demand smart choices, based on architecture; long-term choices, based on the principles and guidelines you adhere to as an company. Precisely for these systems, continuity, security, and costs are important pillars in the choices that are made. By establishing principles and guidelines and building choices and models based on these data, you realize value by means of architecture. You motivate your choices and make long-term roadmaps to work from your IST to SOLL situation.
- Mode 2 is the way in which an company distinguishes itself from the competition by means of the latest technologies. In mode 2, you renew the customer journey, customer portal, or services you deliver to the citizens of your municipality. Standstill is decline. In mode 2, you experiment and surprise the end customer with innovative solutions. It stands to reason this is a process of trial and error. Often, you’re entering completely new territory, with new stakeholders and users who might have completely different wishes from what you could ever have imagined. The basis of success is the ability to change quickly. Agility is key. Is there a problem? Let it fail fast and try something else. This referred to as “fail fast” or “fail forward.”
The trick is to have mode 1 and mode 2 cooperate flawlessly within your company. A proper recording of the current IT architecture and processes is indispensable. You standardize heavily in mode 1. The chains of infrastructure, applications, and processes must be clearly recorded. That way, continuity in each moment is safeguarded, and incidents are quickly solved, with the right information and the relevant parties. Additionally, you ensure that you make the right choices by means of secured principles and guidelines and in combination with accessible and insightful information about your systems. Think of the safeguarded insight into factors such as costs, user groups, data qualities, and business impact. Based on these properly recorded factors, you will make the right system choices. After all, you choose these for the long term.
At the same time, speed, flexibility, and innovation are relied upon to act in the world of mode 2. A world of brief projects, many changes, and experiments. If you want to support this properly, insight into infrastructure, applications, and the mutual relationships is indispensable. Instead of investing time and investigating what the impact of a change or new project will be every single time, this should be clear with one mouse click, which allows for fast acting.
But how do you create a proper architecture? Aloys Kregting, named CIO of the year twice, used the information pyramid for this purpose. This pyramid is a tool for safeguarding overview and insight by applying stratification to needs. In doing so, you map the fundamental needs, after which you create increasingly more insight into higher levels. Successful initiatives, for instance, must first meet the requirements in the lowest level, before they can access a higher level. It’s the architecture’s central task to monitor and realize this.
Governance forms the bottom layer of the pyramid and encompasses the leadership and organizational structures with which the primary company objectives can be reached. The drivers of the company are mapped in this layer. Here, it’s very basic how you fit into the ecosystem of customers, suppliers, and competitors. In the next layer, the roles of the employees and their necessary behavioral change are reviewed. Subsequently, attention is paid to matters such as master data and Key Performance Indicators, after which the necessary business processes are mapped. The IT systems that support the employees are the subject of the top layer. When IT facilities are implemented without meeting the requirements from the lower layers, this leads to sub-optimization because employees, master data, and processes will not be connected.
Architecture Is Essential
Architecture and the recording of the architecture are therefore vital for any company. Working without architecture is like travelling without a compass and route map. You’ll get lost before you know it. As an IT company, it’s important to connect to the bimodal thinking method. Constantly be able to deliver to the business. You can only prevent the business from doing it without you when you deliver what the company needs to be successful. Collaboration is particularly essential.
As soon as you democratize architecture within your company, you make it come to life. Give people the opportunity to record own information, infrastructure, applications, and processes. Obtain the necessary knowledge from the source. Make sure that this information is available to every relevant party within the company from one central repository. This ensures that everyone, from his or her own field, works based on a shared truth. Only then will you actually gain value from architecture.