Technology teams and lines of business are often seduced by cool new technologies, products, and services. The business is drawn to promises of better insights, higher productivity, improved economics, and ease of use. IT is drawn to increasingly powerful technologies that enable the team to more effectively implement and manage an increasingly complex ecosystem.
However, the art of the possible often overshadows what’s practical or what the business is trying to achieve.
Solutions architects can help better align technology acquisition with business goals, albeit not single-handedly. They need to collaborate with the business, IT, and vendors to orchestrate it all.
“A solutions architect has a foot in enterprise architecture, a foot in business program management, and a foot in vendor product management,” said Dirk Garner, principal consultant at Garner Software.
“We help determine what the business needs are and align the right technologies and products. Solutions architecture is really at the center of those things.”
Architecting the right solutions
Sound technology acquisition starts with a business problem or goal. Then, it’s a matter of selecting “the right” technologies and products that will most effectively solve the business problem or help the business achieve its goal.
“So often we do it backwards, we say we have this technology so let’s do this,” said Garner. “Once you understand the business environment, it’s assessing the current state of technology and then taking a look at what you actually need to pursue opportunities and survive in the business environment.”
Given the fast pace of business today, there’s an inclination to just acquire technology now. However, there are often trade-offs between short-term pain relief and a longer term benefit to the business. A sounder approach is to compare current capabilities with the capabilities required and then define a roadmap for getting there.
“The number one challenge is that people are myopic,” said Garner. “Vendors focus on how great their product is [rather than] what the customer needs. The business always comes to the table with unrealistic expectations – how little money they want to spend and how fast they want things delivered.”
Since IT can’t meet those expectations, lines of business purchase their own technology, not realizing that they’ll probably need IT’s help to implement it.
“You hear a lot about collaboration today but when you talk to these people, they’re still siloed,” said Curt Cornum, VP and chief solution architect at global technology provider Insight Enterprises. “Even within the IT department, when you get into those types of conversations they’re not talking to each other as much as they should.”
The persistent silos are keeping businesses from meeting their goals and staying competitive. Meanwhile, their agile counterparts are pulling ahead because their business and IT functions are working in unison. Collaboration is critical.