Guest Blog: Infratech.Digital

Where is IT going wrong with digital architecture?

The technology team of an organisation, from the CTO on down, exists to ensure the organisation has the correct “tools” at its disposal to remain competitive and effective at delivering their primary line of business. The challenge is that as technology becomes increasingly complex, the alignment between technology and business requirements is getting increasingly worse.

It can be looked at as if you were going to transport a modern computer-controlled multi-axis milling machine back in time and provided it to a group of craftsmen sitting around a campfire hammering out bronze arrows. The best technology does not deliver the best results. Technology needs to be carefully aligned with the organisation and staffing to ensure that value creation is happening.

What’s getting in the way of better technology adoption?

While the IT organisation is focused on delivering technology, there is not enough focus on the organisations’ ability to use the technology to create value.

Like the time travel example above, the IT organisation needs to consider not just the capability of the technology being deployed, but the ability for the business to utilise that capability to deliver value.

One of the best examples is in the area of advanced cyber security capabilities such as Next Generation Firewalls and related Web Application Firewalls. While these advanced technologies, on paper, significantly improve an organisation’s cyber defence capability, the reality for most ogranisations does not match that result.

Gartner: “Through 2023, 99% of firewall breaches will be caused by firewall misconfigurations, not firewall flaws.”

This demonstrates that improving the organisations’ capability (in cyber in this case) is not going to be achieved by buying and deploying new technology.

This goes against the very nature of most IT organistaions, which feel they exist to procure and deploy technology.

Focusing on “Usable Technology”

The Agile Manifesto’s clause 7 says “Working software is the primary measure of progress”. If that concept is translated into the wider IT organisation – the focus of IT in digital architecture needs to be on the use of the technology being deployed not on its hypothetical capabilities.

The belief that because a technology is capable of an outcome that it will deliver that outcome is delusional.

Instead the pace of technology change should be slowed or reduced to optimise the organisations’ adoption of the technology. IT organisations should realise that there is not a directly correlation between procurement / deployment and adoption / value creation. This means staying involved in technology deployments through-out the lifecycle to ensure that the business is creating value and using the technology.

Focusing on the “Big Picture”

Where much of the gap in realizing usable technology originates in the IT organsation is the lack of Architecture.

Technology, as a collection of systems, is a recipe for poor efficiency and adoption. No-where is this more apparent than in infrastructure. The choice of technology adoption for networking (Transport), compute & storage (Machinery), monitoring and automation (Control), Security and documentation (Intelligence) – can only result in high-adoption and value creation when it is aligned both horizontally (between technologies) and vertically (between layers of capability).

The UK government has adopted the concept of “Secure-by-Design” which is one aspect of ensuring a cohesive Architecture.

Efficiency is the other key advantage good architecture delivers. A well architected infrastructure will deliver greater capability with less capital cost, less operational cost, less technical debt, less energy and less physical space. Much as a building stands on its design as a whole, not the design of individual rooms and floors, modern IT infrastructure should do the same.

Architecture, however, is not something that can be done from inside the building. It is very difficult to design the ideal architecture while in the midst of day-to-day operations. Doing so means the influence of current use patterns and limitations will be carried into the design of the new infrastructure.

Instead IT leaders should look to focus on service integration and on-going management of the IT systems, moving away from procurement and design-led activities.

This means:

1)     Internal IT aligns with users, not technology: IT should be engaged through-lifecycle with the business impact of all technology systems from requirements through to retirement and disposal.

2)    External support should be focused on delivering strategy, architecture and design without the burden of excessive internal knowledge or industry specialization. This allows for “out of the box” ideas.

3)    Suppliers need to align to a common architecture: Rather than suppliers being involved in design, they should be tasked with pure delivery. Designs should be based around supplier capabilities and linked to business benefits.

By making these changes to how IT organisations adopt digital means that IT will return to the value-driver seat in the business rather than being focused on technology at the expense of value and efficiency.

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