One of the defining trends in the evolution of computing has been the increasing diffusion of platform and control. Today, we have moved from a single mainframe tended by a small team of specialist administrators through distributed computing to the explosion of corporate/divisional Windows and Linux servers.
This trend has taken a further leap forward in recent years with the introduction of cloud technologies and the consumerisation of IT. A recent comment I heard from a Gartner analyst reinforced that with the ability of business to consume IT “as a service”, the challenge was a large amount of budget spending that may be happening outside the control of the CIO.
I spend a lot of time in my role having conversations with either divisional IT or business leaders who are pushing for greater agility and financial control. Their attitude is: “I now have a choice that I didn’t have before. If I can’t get it from corporate, then I’ll simply go and buy it somewhere else.”
Which brings me to the role of the Architect. In my career, I have often come across an architect who ends up playing the part of a police officer. They see the elegance in design of “in a perfect world”, not realising that the reality is much more unstructured. They build a corporate service design which attempts to support the changing landscape. But, at its heart, it still harks back to times when IT was basically a monopolistic supplier. The second danger is when the architect has been involved in the IT systems for so long that it colours their perceptions of what is right/acceptable for the business. This mindset fails to take into account that the business no longer has the same priorities.
It is not the position of an Architect to say “No” to the business. The best model they should follow is perhaps closer to that of a legal officer — whose job is to understand what the business is trying to achieve and why. Then, if appropriate, they can suggest alternatives, strongly if necessary, and ultimately provide risk and guidance for the path that the business wishes to pursue.
As you can see below, the span of activities that drive architecture and governance as “compliance” is much smaller than the total span of activities. The governance is much more about guidance of the business energy and enthusiasm to the optimal channel of provision rather than interdiction or resistance.
||Prescriptive and heavily compliance-oriented|
|Individual services by division||
||Review, advice, guidance, risks and alternatives|
|Individual departmental applications and services||
||Review when consulted, otherwise more educational|
The era of X-aaS and consumerisation is upon us. If our IT products/services are difficult to consume or we are not adapting to the changing business, then the line of business can be every bit as fickle in moving to a new supplier as our end-customers can be in moving to a new brand.