For many years, companies in virtually every industry sector saw architecture management primarily as a tool for standardising their applications. Efforts here focused mainly on consolidating the heterogeneous application environment resulting from past organic growth into a few standard applications as effectively as possible and therefore exploiting potential for efficiency in the company. This proved increasingly successful: despite the appearance of several new functional requirements, the number of separate application instances typically shrank while operations grew more stable and secure – also as a result of reductions in interface complexity.
For a number of years – sooner or later, depending on the industry – we are now seeing an opposing trend, however. The goal of all-out consolidation is now tending to be seen as secondary to the need to create more flexibility and – above all – greater agility. In many places, application architecture is increasingly being developed by the integration of smaller-scale, bought-in application instances, third-party services and in-house development on a much broader scale.
Key drivers of this development trend include bi-modal approaches, where ‘wooden rafts’ may be given the nod even if they often aren’t a 100% fit for the existing ‘ocean-going liner’. This is based on the idea that, of a hundred wooden rafts that set out to sea, only a small number will ever return to port anyway, and it would therefore be a waste of time and money to orient each and every initiative in advance on the company’s big ocean-going liner solution. Another driver here is third-party interoperability – whether this means manufacturers and providers of SaaS solutions or business partners whose services need to be integrated. The end result is a more flexible and more agile system architecture – although this is, again, a more heterogeneous landscape that is more complex to operate.
So how can we ensure that today’s solution strategies don’t become tomorrow’s headaches? What steps can we take to stop our latest architecture development project setting the stage for consolidation projects costing many millions in a few years?
In this era of flexibility and agility, appropriate, goal-oriented planning has a key role to play. The first, important step is to
acquire an up-to-date overview of the current system architecture. While this is of course best practice, it’s still not practised
everywhere. The following indicators can at least offer us some clues as to whether the current approach to architecture development
is structured or unplanned and chaotic:
Architecture management should offer a set of guidelines for the planning and operation of the IT systems and IT infrastructure used. Rather like a land-use plan for urban development, the IT architecture to be deployed is derived from a medium- to long-term project plan. This, in turn, enables the predictive planning and management of IT resources to ensure these are always kept up-to-date both in terms of functionality and security. Architecture management should be oriented on strategic and integrative targets, should account for business processes as well as hardware and software, and enable efficient and cost-effective IT operations. While consolidation of the IT landscape remains important, it itself forms part of the wider goal of ensuring modularity – and the ability to respond quickly and flexibly to changing conditions. The architecture needs to be given ‘space’ to let it adapt to a new set of prevailing conditions.
Roadmaps can be used as the starting-point for successful architecture management: these simplify the task of documenting goals, help to visualise the process and break down the future IT development plan into manageable milestones. With this approach, IT architecture is not be seen as a static model that is set up once and for all, but is instead subject to a process of continuous improvement as it keeps pace with the changing requirements within the company. The ultimate aim here is to develop an adaptable IT architecture.
LEXTA can offer a full range of consulting services here: from developing a strategic roadmap to suggesting specific adjustments for your company, we can provide you with advice and assistance based on our long experience in the industry. Working with your domain experts, we first prepare a detailed status quo analysis. We then draw up a set of appropriate targets and actively support the process needed to achieve them. Our focus here is to ensure the processes in your company are designed more efficiently. This not only gives you a long-term strategy but also ensures that your costs can also be kept as low as possible.