Getting IT Priorities Straight

In this time of fast pace change and innovation, IT must learn to re-prioritize the alignment of business capabilities with data assets as technology becomes commoditized

Change is hard...

It never ceases to amaze me how resistant to change the typical IT organization can be. If there is one thing that a technology-lead group should have a handle on, it's change. In this world of high speed technology evolutions, the only thing we can count tomorrow is that our world will have changed! Yet time after time I find myself struggling to educate IT leaders that the organizations under them are simply change adverse. All too often IT priorities are simply in the wrong order.

Over time, I've learned to use a practical model to illustrate those priorities - I call it the parity model, as it drives parity between business and data perspectives. The model is based on some fundamental enterprise architectural tenants (the BAIT model). I use the parity model to better align the IT organization to business capability demands. It's a model that drives business and information architecture to the top, and 'right sizes' application and technology architectures to their rightful roles of enablers.

Who (and what) is Driving Your Architecture?

To understand the parity model, you'll need to understand the current architecture priorities, and then decide what your transformation strategy will be. The key to driving transformation is understanding the current maturity of your architecture baselines. You also need a grip on your target architecture. The 1213 model below shows the building blocks of an EA program. Business, application, information and technology architectures all have a priority in the organization. The question that must be answered is this: What are your priorities?

The top numbers in the graphic example represent the prioritization of many companies I've worked with. Coming in first is usually Technology Platforms: Completely technology-centric. (Editorial: Not surprising from IT.) IT knows that the business pays the bills, so Business Capabilities gets second billing. Of course who doesn't love applications? Applications fall in line at #3. Last in focus is typically the information, which is usually reduced to 'we back up your databases'. The result was an tech-debt heavy portfolio driven deeper into debt by a penchant for blinking lights instead of driving data-to-business parity.

The bottom numbers represent the transformation approach I advocate. Key here is that business capabilities and information assets must have equal priority. Next, be sure to understand applications drive data literacy. As a result, Application architecture now moves up in priority.

Lastly, we know that we rely on technology to achieve these goals. We all know that good technology is table stakes for competitive advantage, but that technology has also become highly commoditized. The main takeaway from the model depicted in the graphic is the red transformation arrows. Major changes prescribed in IT priorities will help promote business and data needs from last to first.

You gotta break a few eggs... make an omelet; or so the saying goes. Translation: IT must drive organizational transformation, and some folks aren't going to be happy about it. The pace and tempo for design to delivery is quickening every day. Business needs to be part of the solution design from a data ownership perspective. All designers must be allowed to inspect delivery. In other words, governance and change control over what's important - the two things everyone likes <<cough>>.

Chris Johnson is a former VP of Digital Transformation and Director of Global Enterprise Architecture for Fortune 500. Currently living the good life as a pythonista.