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How to build grand ICT designs

Carsten Larsen | Sept. 21, 2016
Once you have contextualised why you are doing something and conceptualised what you are doing it for, you can now determine “how” to best deliver ICT services and “where” they are going to come from.

Last month, I examined the importance of asking “why” in ICT strategy and establishing the “what”, drawing on Simon Sinek’s Golden Circle approach.

Once you have contextualised why you are doing something and conceptualised what you are doing it for, you can now determine “how” to best deliver ICT services and “where” they are going to come from.

ICT groups can overcomplicate discussions about technology service delivery (the how) and sourcing (the where from). Too often, they bring legacies to the table, combined with a fascination for technological intricacies, the war stories of the past and the glittering yet untested promise of future technologies.

Yet most businesses are not interested in what was, what might be and why the ICT function can’t – they’re interested in how their ideas and requirements can be realised.

Talk the same language

So let’s simplify it, use a language that most can relate to and work to engage the organisation in their ICT architecture.

Let’s use real estate architecture as a guide to ICT architecture. In the popular TV show, Grand Designs, people start with schemes and dreams, their “must-haves” and wish lists.

In ICT architecture, your consultations with the organisation around why should guide and inform the key features of your design. Take the time to listen and understand. There’s nothing more futile than designing an environment that no–one wants to utilise.

Managing the inheritance

As we see in Grand Designs, it’s extremely rare to start an architectural project with a cleared block in the ideal setting. The environment that you inherit is likely to have been developed some time ago, adapted to suit ad hoc requirements over time and parts of it may be in dire need of upgrade or replacement.

If your ICT house looks like a derelict farmhouse, with lean-tos, rusting barns and outhouses, you’re not alone. Start with a gap analysis of what you have and what you need, negotiate realistic timeframes and budgets, and design your architecture from there.

If you have inherited a solid design, but need to remodel the infrastructure to meet changing organisational requirements, or better position you in a competitive environment, adapt the design and remodel.

A well-defined ICT architecture is your most powerful tool for delivering your strategic vision, clearly and consistently. There are a range of architectural frameworks, including the Zachman Framework for Enterprise Architectures, The Open Group Architecture Framework (TOGAF), the Federal Enterprise Architecture (FEA) and Gartner’s Enterprise Architecture and Process Framework.

Any framework can work provided that it is used consistently across the organisation.

A three pillar of ICT variant of the framework for enterprise architectures

 

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