Skandia Team GBR

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Does a Pure Architecture Muddy the Business Waters?

Recent conversations with a range of clients and peers has led me to some soul-searching and thinking regarding IT Strategy, Business Outcomes, Enterprise Architecture and Technical Implementation.

Specifically I’ve been pondering the relationship, benefits and possible contradictions between a true loosely coupled Service-Focussed Strategy and that of a Strategic Platform (typically single vendor).

woman pool sky

From an architecture-purest perspective, a loosely coupled service strategy offers significant benefits both from a business perspective, technology delivery, flexibility, openness and lack of vendor tie-in; however those benefits come with a cost as far as I can see that, unchecked far outweighs the benefits…

Taking the widely adopted scenario whereby you separate out UX, Logic and Data Storage and deliver these using “services”, that works great; I love the fact that I can instigate business processes from a number of end-points, it’s great that I can consume the data through a range of interfaces and I absolutely think it’s the only way forward to enable me as an end-user to remix the data and add my context and expertise to it in an open manner…

But in an organisation this flexibility without constraints will not enable the delivery of business outcomes… rather the flexibility will become anarchy, end users and technology implementors will be confused, it will hinder productivity and the ability for the platform to deliver the users business outcomes!

Our role as IT leaders, strategists and pragmatists is IMHO to to take the architectural vision and deliver those principles in an appropriate manner, this means making sure we don’t facilitate:

  • Multiple User Experiences
  • Multiple Dev languages & tools
  • Loss or confusion of context
  • Increase in complexity


Architecture validity is a key concept, but delivering business outcomes and supporting business strategy must come first and to do this, Architecture and Strategic Platforms need to have a more mature relationship between themselves.

baby and grandfather

What rules the roost in your organisation?

Does Architecture drive and shape the business solution?

Does the Strategic Platform cut the corners off the Architecture?


…or does the Strategic Platform deliver direction and pragmatism to the Architectural vision?



James Smith said...

Yes to achieve a loosely coupled architecture is difficult, both in terms of technical implementation and governance. As you point out though this is the best approach for the business and IT; for me this means we have to constantly address governance and technical complexities as part of the overall approach. SOA/hosted services/open APIs are now widespread (this is all about loosely coupled architectures) new developments/services are taking advantage of these and providing consumers with added value. Vendors have also realised this and roadmaps, or vision statements outlining how they intend to support this concepts with their products are available. There are SOA governance experts now working with vendors (Microsoft, IBM, Oracle, SAP) to provide enterprises with a methodology and tools to handle this type of architecture.


Ant said...

Thanks James.

I think the key, for me, is your point "...for me this means we have to constantly address governance and technical complexities as part of the overall approach..."

Absolutely and this pragmatism is a key success factor...

What I am also very interested in is the "contextual access portal" and whether the current vendors Microsoft, IBM, Oracle, SAP) are supporting this concept to sufficient depth to be a proper enabler as opposed to a technical\architectural challenge that significantly dilutes the benefits or whether the "contextual access portal" will come through the smaller niche or start-up players?