The House That No One Built

The House That No One Built

A recent article by Donald A. Marchand and Joe Peppard likened the technology infrastructure of many organizations to the Winchester mansion in San Jose, CA. The home is an architect’s nightmare. There are doors and stairways that literally lead to nowhere and interior windows that look out to brick walls. How did this happen you may wonder? Well, construction continued unabated for nearly 40 years, with no plan and no individual or group to ensure that the various parts cohesively connected together.

This analogy can easily apply to technology infrastructure. As new IT products and services emerge, they are often haphazardly connected to existing infrastructure, whether or not it makes sense. Furthermore, organizational leadership is often reluctant to get involved in what they think are IT decisions, leaving it up to IT departments to guess at business needs as new products and services are deployed.

Before bulldozing the lot and starting over, organizations should implement the following 5 policies and procedures to ensure a strong and cohesive organization:

1. Leadership needs to own the structure.

Applying the concept of enterprise architecture (EA), leaders need to take responsibility for defining and planning organizing logic, specifically with regards to the intersection of key business processes and IT capabilities. The resulting plan should be reflective of the organization’s operational requirements.

2. Bridges must be built between functional silos and support silos.

Many executives are measured and rewarded for their functional leadership and not for their ability to holistically integrate strategy, structure, processes, culture, rewards, and information flows. Enterprise leaders, those who successfully work across departments to make sure changes are built upon a solid foundation, should be recognized.

3. Organizations should abandon the traditional IT paradigm.

In a traditional IT paradigm, organizations ask IT departments to deploy systems within requirements, on time, and on budget, and then declare success once the system is live. Instead, organizations should adopt a more agile, usage-oriented paradigm. Such a paradigm focuses on turning data into helpful information, designing software as usable applications and leveraging technology and infrastructure partnerships to create required functionality.

4. The Enterprise Architecture (EA) must be flexible and customer- and market-driven.

Often business climates can be driven by volatility, uncertainty, constant change, and ambiguity. This being the case, underlying operating models should be built with an eye toward simplification, flexibility, agility, and mass customization.

5. Business and IT leaders must take a long-term view.

We cannot predict what data, systems, and technologies will be used in 5, 10, or 15 years. The operating model must therefore be designed with flexibility. Leaders should apply a design-for-use approach to their EA rather than a design-to-build approach.

Ultimately organizations need a holistic design that is driven by leadership and builds in adaptability, flexibility and focuses on the end user. To discuss how to align your organization’s business and IT needs, with an eye to the future, please see our contact page here.