Architecture provides a crucial link between business and technology capabilities, but it also helps bridge the gap between business and technology organizations. In my experience, everyone seems to agree that the two groups need to work more closely together; at least I don’t hear the suggestion that business owners should throw requirements over the wall and come back six months later for acceptance testing. However, this is not too far from what happens in practice, and the results are felt in many organizations regardless of function, industry, or maturity: IT effectiveness is hampered, business stakeholders are frustrated, and the gulf between business and IT grows until it seems that never the twain shall meet.
Marianne Broadbent and Ellen Kitzis write about technical managers vs. trusted executive leaders of the enterprise. Technical managers are experts in the mechanics of IT. They “keep the lights on and do it cheap.” This role is essential, especially in today’s environment of cost-cutting and rationalization of services. However, this role can also minimize the impact for good that technology can have on the organization. Increasingly, information and technology are the business, even in industries where IT has traditionally been on the sidelines. It is rare to have a business capability that is not driven by technology. Because of this, IT must be more than just the plumbing. Far beyond enabling the business, technology, when done right, can transform the enterprise and open up new and powerful ways of doing business.
The value of architecture is in providing structure across people, process, information, and technology so that they operate together to deliver business value. So much of the work being done in the field focuses on software, hardware, and infrastructure that architecture becomes little more high-level systems design. When this happens, business value gets lost. The results are easy to see in many organizations: Business stakeholders find IT irrelevant if not incomprehensible, and they disengage from architecture and implementation activities. At the same time, IT leaders find themselves supporting an unnecessarily complex integration environment and applications that are used in ways that they were not intended. To the extent that architects and technology leaders can impact all of the components of a business capability, not just technology, they will become vehicles for moving beyond frustration and cost focus. In this role they will be empowered to drive much more meaningful value to their organizations and customers.