Tuesday, November 15, 2005

The Scourge of the I/T Architect's Universe

Many companies basically have little or no budget allocated for infrastructure enhancements for the common corporate good. Instead, everything is lumped into the budgets of various projects. Usually, no one project can absorb the entire cost to establish a new infrastructure across the enterprise. And... the individual project managers feel it is to their advantage both NOT to rely on someone else’s project for infrastructure critical to their project success and NOT to promise to help out someone else’s project infrastructure.

Nobody wants to be dependent on someone else successfully executing their project to be successful on their own. At least if they don’t have to. Project managers call that a dependency. Nobody wants to spend “extra” money on infrastructure out of their pot of money, even if that would be being a good corporate citizen.

Project-based funding models tend to focus most attention on the short-term requirements of the business. If it is on a screen presented to a user, it is important. If it affects the response time when going through user acceptance testing, it ranks high. If it provides extra flexibility that nobody realizes a need for yet, it rates pretty low in priority.

As each project manager optimizes their individual projects and short-term agendas, they sub-optimize the entire corporation.

The result for us poor I/T Architects? We would like to apply our intellect to enterprise-wide projects with a big impact across many high-visibility projects, this opportunity is all too often denied us by the project-based funding model. We are deprived of the chance to really play the role of an Enterprise Architect. We see that there is a better way or a better approach but it is unattainable.

Our only recourse I fear is that we as I/T Architects simply have to get better at selling the benefits of shared infrastructure, shared services, and Enterprise Architecture in general to the business types who basically don’t care what happens “under the covers.” After all (and perhaps rightly so) they usually control the budgets. We have to stop looking at this as crossing over to the dark side... the dark side populated by purveyors of marketing “fluff." It is something we have to master to have the funding for those “big impact” projects we believe in.

Copyright © 2005 by Philip Hartman - All Rights Reserved


The postings on this site are my own and don't necessarily represent IBM's positions, strategies, or opinions.

7 comments:

Deepak Kaul said...

As long the "business types" don't see the quantitave ($$) benefit of a shared infrastructure it is very difficult to get them change the current model. You are right, may be we really do need more people crossing over

Philip Hartman said...

Deepak,
Thanks for stopping by and for your comment. It seems, we can never escape selling our ideas and ourselves (our credibility).

Aneel said...

Is it really that hard to show the quantitative benefit of shared infrastructure? As long as the scope of the people driving finance extends beyond the immediate short-term, which I'm guessing it must if they're gonna last as a company, there must be a simple way to show the loss to the business of project-driven vs. shared infrastructure models.

Philip Hartman said...

Aneel,
I'm glad you stopped by and thanks for your comment. You raise an interesting question. Why is it so hard to sell shared infrastructure? If I knew the answer I would be rich. I know that corporate culture and past negative experiences play a part. Often there is an attitude of "will this help me sell one more widget?" or "I remember 3 years ago when project XXX failed."

steve ryan said...

I think the fundamental issue is about understanding what is driving a business.
Business investment decisions are about return on investment. Clearly businesses understand investment in infrastructure eg. all utility companies depend on it, banks invest in a network of branches and ATMs etc. However, they are also well aware of the pitfalls. There is a litany of failures of the "build it and they shall come" business model.
So really this issue is how to build a compelling business case for our proposed IT infrastructure investment. Like any business case it needs to clearly articulate the benefits.
Typically, historically, us IT Architects are not real good at that.

Philip Hartman said...

steve ryan,

(heavy sigh) I agree. I just seems that he business case is so difficult to make, particularly in industries which are not historically early adopters of new technology. The more of a commodity the business, the less interest in technology to enable competitive advantage.

steve ryan said...

Couldn't agree more.
Historically as IT architects we've been underperforming at the business aspects of 'the game'.
Your other posting about the business transformation architect role has really hit home with me, and it ties in with this topic. Essentially, the business skills need to be added to the IT architect role if we are to ensure a value creation mentality rather than being pushed into obscurity by the scourge of cost centre conservatism.
By chance, at the beginning of this year I decided to go back for more education and looked at doing an MBA. Instead of an orthodox MBA I settled on a slight variation on the theme - the MBT, masters of business and technology - which now appears to be a very fortuitous choice.