Hybrid IT or Cloud Initiative – a Perfect Enterprise Architecture Maturation Opportunity
By Ted McLaughlan on Oct 25, 2013
All too often in the growth and maturation of Enterprise Architecture initiatives, the effort stalls or is delayed due to lack of “applied traction”. By this, I mean the EA activities - whether targeted towards compliance, risk mitigation or value opportunity propositions – may not be attached to measurable, active, visible projects that could advance and prove the value of EA. EA doesn’t work by itself, in a vacuum, without collaborative engagement and a means of proving usefulness. A critical vehicle to this proof is successful orchestration and use of assets and investment resources to meet a high-profile business objective – i.e. a successful project.
More and more organizations are now exploring and considering some degree of IT outsourcing, buying and using external services and solutions to deliver their IT and business requirements – vs. building and operating in-house, in their own data centers. The rapid growth and success of “Cloud” services makes some decisions easier and some IT projects more successful, while dramatically lowering IT risks and enabling rapid growth. This is particularly true for “Software as a Service” (SaaS) applications, which essentially are complete web applications hosted and delivered over the Internet. Whether SaaS solutions – or any kind of cloud solution - are actually, ultimately the most cost-effective approach truly depends on the organization’s business and IT investment strategy.
This leads us to Enterprise Architecture, the connectivity between business strategy and investment objectives, and the capabilities purchased or created to meet them. If an EA framework already exists, the approach to selecting a cloud-based solution and integrating it with internal IT systems (i.e. a “Hybrid IT” solution) is well-served by leveraging EA methods. If an EA framework doesn’t exist, or is simply not mature enough to address complex, integrated IT objectives – a hybrid IT/cloud initiative is the perfect project to advance and prove the value of EA.
Why is this? For starters, the success of any complex IT integration project - spanning multiple systems, contracts and organizations, public and private – depends on active collaboration and coordination among the project stakeholders. For a hybrid IT initiative, inclusive of one or more cloud services providers, the IT services, business workflow and data governance challenges alone can be extremely complex, requiring many diverse layers of organizational expertise and authority. Establishing subject matter expertise, authorities and strategic guidance across all the disciplines involved in a hybrid-IT or hybrid-cloud system requires top-level, comprehensive experience and collaborative leadership. Tools and practices reflecting industry expertise and EA alignment can also be very helpful – such as Oracle’s “Cloud Candidate Selection Tool”.
Using tools like this, and facilitating this critical collaboration by leading, organizing and coordinating the input and expertise into a shared, referenceable, reusable set of authority models and practices – this is where EA shines, and where Enterprise Architects can be most valuable. The “enterprise”, in this case, becomes something greater than the core organization – it includes internal systems, public cloud services, 3rd-party IT platforms and datacenters, distributed users and devices; a whole greater than the sum of its parts.
Through facilitated project collaboration, leading to identification or creation of solid governance models and processes, a durable and useful Enterprise Architecture framework will usually emerge by itself, if not actually identified and managed as such. The transition from planning collaboration to actual coordination, where the program plan, schedule and resources become synchronized and aligned to other investments in the organization portfolio, is where EA methods and artifacts appear and become most useful. The actual scope and use of these artifacts, in the context of this project, can then set the stage for the most desirable, helpful and pragmatic form of the now-maturing EA framework and community of practice.Considering or starting a hybrid-IT or hybrid-cloud initiative? Running into some complex relationship challenges? This is the perfect time to take advantage of your new, growing or possibly latent Enterprise Architecture practice.