Who Needs a Current State Technology Architecture?

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Guest Post by Zach Sachen, Sridhar Karimanal and Rima Safari

Collecting information about your current technology architecture is a major pain, so why bother? Is it just a waste of time or is it another enterprise architecture myth?

A quick calculation shows that building skills and processes to produce, maintain, and use current state architecture information can save a company a lot of time and money, as well as realize additional benefits along the way. Depending on the size of a company’s project portfolio and the use of the current state data across those projects a company can save millions annually.

Before we jump into the calculations, let’s dive a bit deeper and first take a look at the characteristics and benefits of a good current state technology architecture.

Characteristics of a Current State Technology Architecture

  1. Traceable: documents key relationships, interactions, dependencies that exist among systems, actors, and the underlying business functions which they support.
  2. Appropriate Data Model / Metadata: considers the wide-range of data available, but narrows down scope to those important and accessible attributes - e.g. application names, vendor products, application owner(s), technology protocols, business functions, and operating systems.
  3. Consistent Representation: uses a consistent / standard means of representing information to facilitate communication of common architecture information.
  4. Centralized and Reusable: accessible quickly and easily across organizations, enables enterprise transparency, and helps ensure freshness of information.
  5. Up To Date: Stale information is worth less.

Benefits of a Current State Technology Architecture

  1. Decision Making: enables a degree of predictive modeling to ensures that there are no hasty IT investments and/or acquisition activities, and facilitates impact assessment right from the beginning.
  2. Cost Modeling/Reduction: provides an enterprise-level fact-based understanding of the costs and benefits involved - e.g. for the current IT infrastructure this can help identify aging applications that are increasing support costs.
  3. Efficiencies: helps to identify waste as it contains the complete inventory of applications and their characteristics/functionality; it thereby acts as a catalyst for application rationalization opportunities.
  4. Architecture Governance: provides a basis for planning and adjusting architecture governance efforts ahead of time rather than reacting to unknowns that surface over time.
  5. Training: delivers faster on-boarding/learning for new employees through its information on how the business runs and the technology that supports it.
  6. Assessments: provides a fast way to conduct impact assessments from either a business process and/or technology perspective; examples include using it to provide a regulatory and compliance driven project baseline or using a it to drive technology-related health assessment.
  7. Operational Improvements: drives hypotheses development for operations improvement exercises.

Now that we have looked at the characteristics and soft benefits of having the information let’s review the potential hard benefits/savings using some “back of napkin” calculations.Here’s a quick assessment that supports the range of savings asserted at the beginning of this article. The calculations below simply show a range of annual costs associated with not having current state technology architecture information for enterprise projects.

cc licensed flickr photo shared by Paul Stevenson

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  • Michael Ellyett

    Specious analysis. Why on earth would it this much effort to maintain information on current state assets. Using a contemporary online system it should take about 10 mins to record information on assets (application, interfaces etc.) and knowledge of the business. If we stopped thinking IT was some special and all the little IT people were quite so precious we would seem other areas with assets the information is maintained fairly painlessly and effortlessly and can be used to manage, plan and predict Cf. fleet management; property management; personnel management; customer relationship management; asset management etc.

  • Prakash Sathengeri

    I would prefer to see a state where the current state is always available. Good architecture is about maintaining a current state at all times.

  • Richard Allen

    Exactly correct Micheal. IT Assets are just like any other assets of the enterprise. An EAM program that does not leverage other programs (like ITIL/CMDB, APM, MDM, BPM/PI, SOA, and even PPM) as sources of current state information, and quickly infuse that information into the EAM repository for quick analysis against the target state and delivery to the decision makers, is making EA too hard. Don’t re-invent the wheel.

  • zssachen

    Thanks for the responses. As mentioned below, it shouldn’t take much effort to maintain the current state baseline. It does take discipline - both in terms of updating it (which can be automated to some extent) and using it (which sometimes comes down to education/training). Regardless of the specific effort it takes to maintain a current state, that effort is much less than the effort of repeating a manual current state analysis (through emails, interviews, spreadsheets, and other artifacts/activities) across each project every year. From our experience we have seen many situations where companies do more of the latter approach vs. the former. Also, as alluded to below, “current state” doesn’t have to be just EAM, it can be broader in terms of the information it can provide, and thus the benefits returned. What are folks thoughts on why this type of information isn’t readily available in most companies (beyond just asset management) - i.e. the barriers.

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  • Wow! This is such a good source of information. Thank you also for stating the characteristics and benefits of a current state technology architecture. This is really a big help indeed.

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