Similarities of IT and Construction Industries
Once upon a time, during one of my ITIL classes we went into a very inspiring discussion with one of the brightest trainees in the class, that was about the similarities between managing IT and construction industries. Thanks to that inspiring discussion i wrote the article below that was also published in a European IT magazine. I would like to share this article also with the linked in followers. I hope you enjoy;
Enterprise Architecture Management (EAM)
A Smarter Way to Plan the Path from the Status Quo to the Vision of the Enterprise...
The requirement of the architecture
Imagine being the technical manager of a huge skyscraper. Every day you have to fulfil the demands that require technical modifications of the building that you are managing. Changes such as adding a new girder section to the building or sometimes even collapsing some of them, moving the pipes of the plumbing system, modifying the capacity of the heating and air conditioning systems, etc..
While handling these modifications, you have to make sure that your building is still stable and the people living in your building are as comfortable and safe as possible, they should not even notice that there are changes going on at the building. This task of technical management may sound possible to perform to some extend but wouldn’t you hesitate if there existed no documented technical plan about your building and if there were no way to predict the result of your changes. Your only prediction method would be trial and error, and maybe past experience if there is any. Doesn’t this sound like a nightmare? This analogy expresses the dilemma of today’s IT Managers’ challenges where girders represent core business IT services, pipes symbolise network systems, heating and air conditioning systems represent software platforms, etc.. You might have already guessed that the safe and stable building symbolises the business and the people who live and work in the building are the business users. What would be the solution that may help IT managers and give them maximum prediction abilities about the changes they have to perform regarding their IT landscape? Isn’t there a way to estimate the exact budget, benefits and risks of an IT project other than trial and error or past experience? On the other hand, it is a fact that the driving force behind these IT changes and projects is business requirements and today’s very competitive business environment; in this case, our method of prediction shall have business stakeholders as one of the key players in such a challenging IT planning effort.
The method and approach that may help both IT and business managers is called Enterprise Architecture Management. The enterprise architecture consists of the various structures and processes of an organisation, including both technical structures and processes as well as business / domain structures and processes. In accordance with this definition, an enterprise architecture model is a representation of those structures and processes. A good enterprise architecture model will depict the organisation both as it is today and as it is envisioned in the future, and will map the various views representing the architecture to one another. These views include both business-oriented perspectives as well as technical perspectives. In many ways, enterprise architecture models are a communication bridge between senior business stakeholders and senior IT professionals.
EAM as a standard
Enterprise Architecture Management methodology is mainly dominated by two international frameworks, TOGAF® (The Open Group Architectural Framework) and the Zachman Framework for Enterprise Architectures. In terms of standardisation, a first important standard in the field of software architecture and system architecture is IEEE 1471. In 2006 a technical committee of the ISO launched a revision of this standard, which is ISO/IEC 42010. This ISO/IEC 42010 standard defines an architecture framework and specifies requirements for the standardisation of frameworks.
Benefits of Implementing Architecture Management into an Enterprise
There are countless examples of organisations that stumbled because their IT architectures could not accommodate rapid changes in their business environment. Fast growing companies are liable to „hit a wall“ when their architectures fail to expand quickly enough to serve new customers cost-efficiently. Traditional companies may lose market share if their architectures lack the flexibility to support new products, new services, new customers and new directions. Companies are now less willing to invest in multiyear, budget-crushing business process transformation or application implementation initiatives. Enterprise executives have become sceptical of the assumed value of these efforts and many are still waiting to realise the benefits of recent ERP, CRM, and business transformation investments. Instead, companies are embarking on smaller, integrated initiatives that have an immediate impact, while adapting their Business and Technology Architectures in response to new business strategies; in other words, leveraging the Enterprise Architecture mindset by running smaller projects that are more under control.
Let us briefly explain the benefits of EAM within the traditional IT planning process. As it is detailed in the drawing below, the classical approach would only deal with the architecture as soon as the budget of a project has been specified but this is not enough in order to survive in today’s complex IT environment, where we have to make sure that we are investing into proper architecture that guarantees the stability of our services with the proper budget. As the architectural maturity grows, we will be able to make sure that we are investing into proper technologies before specifying the project budget.
Organisations now realise that the Internet is not just a low cost distribution channel, but also a low-cost technology platform enabling an increasing number and diversity of businesses to share information and to coordinate commerce processes. An Enterprise Architecture approach recognises that the Internet and its associated technologies provide a powerful, flexible, and extremely cost-effective competitive advantage. By using this approach, Enterprise Architecture has helped organisations accomplish cost reductions across a wide array of functional areas, ranging from purchasing to managing manufacturing and customer service.
If we consider that in some markets more than 50 % of the banking transactions take place via the Internet and other alternative technological channels instead of traditional financial operations, it becomes apparent that the Enterprise Architecture Management approach is a must to have for those enterprises that are willing to exist in the market and keep their competitive advantage. In addition, many organisations have achieved their growth via aggressive merger and acquisition strategies. Again, by leveraging a mature Enterprise Architecture methodology, organisations are able to accommodate the integration of such major transformations as divestitures, mergers and acquisitions and also decrease the level of operations or develop common business processes and support globalisation through the architecture‘s inherent ability to accept new connection points, existing processes, and systems.
Companies that do not plan an enterprise architecture will end up with an accidental architecture, thus incurring more spending than their competitors not only in terms of hardware and software, but also in employee and contracting costs, along with far less service capabilities and performance. This issue will hamper their competitiveness in both good times and difficult ones. On the other hand, smart companies that regularly assess and augment their enterprise architecture in alignment with their growing business process requirements and proven technology landscape can provide a strategic advantage to their decision makers and enhance their organisation’s competitiveness by improving timely, accurate, and reliable access to business information at lower costs and with a more efficient computing infrastructure.