August 15, 2014

To ensure good results, IT has to understand business

Ari Hirvonen

Head of Enterprise Architecture Consulting, Tieto

Recently we hosted a co-innovation workshop with a big international company and two local organizations. Target of the consulting workshop was to combine ideas, solutions and experiences from different organizations to create new innovations, new business and benchmark plans. All of the participants were practitioners of agile development, which means producing results quickly in short iterations. What did we learn from this?

Traditional heavy approaches may lead to failure

However, we also learned that increased pressure to adopt to new business initiatives through digitalization leads to success and satisfaction. Agile approaches in these instances are supported very well. They deliver results faster, and are adaptable for quick changes in the environment and they also delivery value early.

An agile approach does not decrease the need of architecture work in software development, that is needed even more. Organizations should have a long-term plan and vision to avoid suboptimization and to guide all initiatives to common direction . Typical challenge is to include too much detail in long-term planning which leads to heavy documenting and thus support for the company’s future direction is weak.

Unique approaches to different areas of IT

Long lasting and quickly changing areas of the enterprise architecture, organizational processes, information, systems and technology, must be understood. The ways information is utilized, what user interfaces are used, or what kind of processes are used can all change rapidly as new business initiatives emerge quickly. Therefore, rapidly-changing and long-lasting parts of the architecture should be separated from each other.

The changing business environment adds a lot of pressure towards company management. According to our Business Transformation study, changes in technology also affect the role of leadership. There will be less room for intuitive decision-making while it becomes data-driven with a possible chance of a data overload burden. It's important to focus on and measure the right things.

Business has to understand IT and the other way around

Methodologies, frameworks and documents will be important in the future, but key success factors are management and communication. Software projects must have architects with enterprise architecture understanding, and project owners have to be close to  hands-on work. The owners are typically business people and have a business background, so we have to talk business instead of tech language. Communication must be adapted to the intended audience and enterprise architects must understand incentives and speak both of these languages.

But what, then, is sign of success? When at least 80% of the architecture plans becomes reality and is implemented within the next 3-12 months, then you’re on the safe side. You probably already have a high-level target and vision, but the most important part is making your plans a reality.

Ari is Head of Enterprise Architecture Consulting at Tieto, you can find him on LinkedIn. You can download the full "Future of Business Transformation" study here.

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