URGENTLY NEEDED! Bridge Builders Between Business and IT

By Aaron Tan Dani

Business and IT misalignment has long been a problem in organisations that have IT services to deliver, whether to various stakeholders that include internal users, to its partner users or to public users. But business people and IT people think differently. And if both are to co-exist in an organisation, while delivering value to it at the same time, enterprise architects have to build ‘bridges’ between them.

ATD Solution’s IASA certified Business IT Architecture Fundamentals (BITAF) is a 3-day bootcamp that seeks to outline the general dynamics of such an organisation and introduce the role of the IT architect or enterprise architect that bridges IT and Business.

But first things first… what is the motivation behind offering courses like BITAF?

The IASA Motivation
IASA, the Global IT Architect Professional Body recognised the need for IT architects because just too many IT projects are failing. A Standish and Gartner report discovered that 60% to 70% of IT projects have failed in one way or another, while Forrester found that 66% of IT projects failed because of miscommunication between business and IT; this costs businesses in the U.S. at least US$30 billion every year.

The role of the IT architect is overlooked and instead of an experienced IT professional taking a step back to ensure business and IT are on the same page, juniors are saddled with the all-important task  of finding out requirements of business users.

Don’t get me wrong. Unlike in the past, IT architects needed to have 10 years of experience in project implementations and/or performed various IT roles.  They would probably have had to fail a couple of large IT projects and burned millions of dollars in the process… and all without going to jail because they had ‘permission’ to!

But these days, all an IT architect needs is interest to understand the values of business and technology relationship. Core IT Architectural principles or IT Architect body of knowledge like ITABoK can help guide these aspiring IT architects, with highly practical skillsets.

IT architect career map, IASA certifications and global IT architecture landscape
IT architecture is not just a role. It is a profession because of the community or like-minded group of people that IT architects belong to, the information developed from the mistakes and experiences of thousands of IT architects or ITABoK and its certification path.

IT architects can progress and specialise in four areas; namely software architecture, infrastructure architecture, information architecture and business architecture.

Underlying that is ITABoK which is based on the five pillars of Design, Human Dynamics, Quality Attributes, IT Environment, and Business Technology Strategy. These are usually intensively covered in Apprentice level courses, whereby an aspiring IT architect can progress to become an Associate-level IT architect and continue towards being a professional IT architect.

Basically, IT architecture landscape in general is based on Frameworks, Technologies and Skills (FTS).  Frameworks for IT architecture like (TOGAF, DODAF, MODAF, FEAF, Zachmann) and Technologies have been around for some time, but it was only in 2010 that finally IASA Certification and Board CITA Certification to certify IT Architects, was made available for anyone who want to learn and master the skills after 8 years of rigorous review and critique by world renowned industry experts.

TOGAF, or The Open Group Architecture Framework, represents industry consensus of Enterprise Architecture frameworks and best practice methods that an organisation’s Enterprise Architecture can be based upon.

ADM or the Application Development Method which is the core of TOGAF ‘governs’ people Skill Sets, provides prescriptive guidance on developing enterprise architecture and ensures that stakeholders are connected to the ‘system.’

Business goals should determine what Technology to use.  An Enterprise Architect will have to sort out what those business goals are by putting their ear to the ground in both Business and IT camps.

Typical challenges faced by enterprises today:

1. Compressed business processing time
Business process cycle times have reduced drastically! For example, if before trading analytics could take 30 minutes, now it has to provide insight in almost real-time.  Faster results are also expected for other business processes like airline operations, call centre inquiries, phone activations, data warehouse refresh, supply chain updates and more.

2. Understanding requirements 
This is a typical challenge in the world of IT – communicating actual requirements into the written human language as accurately as possible. IT needs this to translate into language that computers and systems can understand.

If business requirements cannot be described in the human language, it is almost impossible for IT to produce any system to meet business requirements. Garbage in means garbage out.

BITAF aims to establish a common communications platform for both IT and business to work together.

3. Communicating design
Drawing sophisticated diagrams is an important skill in the IT realm. But why is a diagram drawn the way it is drawn? Most IT/technical people are not exactly sure why themselves.

Are diagrams purposely complex to portray the complexity of their jobs? Is it to discourage others from asking questions and challenging them?

Sometimes, IT departments fall back on using designs recommended by technology vendors or some website. But for them to adopt designs that are recommended by others, they should still be able to describe in detail and map it to the business design so that the organisation can implement it.

Not being able to do so, can only mean that an IT design may not be practical or realistic or suitable for an organisation’s business.

4. Conceptualising the concept
It is challenging for the architect to have 1 to 1 mapping of the design concepts to the actual implementation, as there are very limited design tools, that can perfectly map design to implementation.  What you see on the IT drawing board, most of the time, is not what you actually get.

5. Implementing quality design
Poor quality IT systems is so common, because of some of the reasons covered here. This causes loss of time, opportunities, revenues, customers and even loss of image and reputation.

It is critically imperative that quality attributes are taken into account from very early on in the process, as far back as business requirement designing all the way to implementation and deployment, because Quality attributes have direct impact to cost, timeline, resources and requirements.

6. Dealing with scalability
A typical IT environment has so many solutions that are not interoperable and operate in silos. Even solution versions from the same vendor, cannot interoperate!

This causes a nightmare in trying to manage a wide variety of platforms and products. IASA recommends to limit to 3 or even 2 different vendors/platforms for every category of IT like database, operating systems, network and so on.

7. Integrating the entities
IT systems have typically been built in separate silos for the last 10 to 20 years due to driving IT forces were merely automation. Today, IT needs to deliver strategic values beyond automation. Trouble arises because there is accumulation of independent systems that are not integrated.

8. Isolated islands of IT projects
Even IT projects exist in silos; they are independent from each other and every IT system typically acquires new servers, new databases, new storage, new operating systems, new everything.

This causes exponential cost growth, a financial burden to any enterprise and the ‘unfair’ labeling of its IT division as a ‘cost centre’.

Hence, there is critical need to establish the Enterprise Architecture Office that looks at the 4 different specialisations or enterprise architecture – information, infrastructure, software, business – in an integrated way. IT can become a profit centre!

Business Requirement Architecture
Established research finds that poorly-defined applications, because of miscommunication between Business and IT, contribute to 66% of IT project failures and costs US businesses at least US$30 billion yearly.

Getting the right business requirement from the very beginning is very imperative. Business Requirement Architecture of BRA can help capture complete business requirements that thoroughly consider every possible user scenario when interacting with the IT system.

In a nutshell
There is a sense that the Enterprise Architecture tsunami is coming.

Even IT Service Management certification like ITIL Ver. 3 has integration with Enterprise Architecture, as does COBIT 5, an IT governance framework.

Now is the right time to change. Knowledge is available, training is available and business architecture is mature.

AUTHOR BIO: Aaron Tan Dani is founder and chairman of IASA Asia Pacific, co-author of the IT Architecture Body of Knowledge (ITABoK) and chief architect of ATD Solution group of companies (Malaysia, Singapore, Hong Kong, Indonesia and Australia).

Aaron Tan Dani’s keen passion and selflessness to contribute sees him actively involved in setting up and leading IASA Chapters across the Asia Pacific countries. His close connection with industry leaders and government bodies in the respective APAC countries also gives him the edge and keeps him up to date with the latest technologies’ landscape

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