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Part 3 – The Winchester House and the Strategic Imperative for Architectural-led IT Evolution and Transformation

October 7, 2011 - 1 Comment

An “architectural-led” approach to your data center, indeed to your overall IT architecture, given the previous discussion in part 1 and part 2 of this blog, is therefore a strategic imperative for progressive organisations.   We in Cisco don’t want to see your IT architecture have problems analogous to the Winchester House.  So how can you achieve an “architectural-led” approach?  I’ll cover 5 key recommendations in this, my final part of this trilogy :-).

Avoiding the Winchester House Scenario for your IT Architecture

How Do You Achieve “Architectural-Led” Change?

An architectural-led approach requires people with extensive design expertise – and multi-domain expertise at that.   It requires technical experience across network, storage, compute, virtualization and applications.  It requires that these people can tap into a wider network of skills and experiences – since no one person will have all the necessary answers or experience. Of course, it’s not all about technical expertise – you need the business drivers clear, you need to be considering operational issues too: a focus on technical architecture alone is insufficient.

Recommendation #1: Ensure you have clear business goals and drivers- and that these are the main drivers for your architecture strategy.

Ensure Your IT Architecture is Aligned to Your Business Drivers

Recommendation #2: Ensure your architectural team has stakeholders from (at least) all of the aforementioned functions.

Adopting an architecture-led approach can significantly help organizations align technology and business strategies to achieve their goals. It helps ensure that the business has the capabilities needed for present and future success and provides metrics that help architecture teams align people, processes, and systems with business and technology goals. The way to start this approach is to develop a thorough gap analysis between what your business demands and the current capabilities of your current IT capability.  Cisco Services’ Architectural Discovery Workshops, which use proven analytical methods, can help you bring this together.

Managing the Complexity

Architectural-led, given this complexity, therefore implies a significant program, across the wide range of technology domains involved.  Consequently, comprehensive, experienced and empowered program management is required to complement the technical skills.  And an architecture management function will be required to marshal technical consistency across the program phases, with appropriate experience, skills, backing and authority to bring together any technical silos.

Perhaps most important, given the business implications of the demands upon IT and the data center, “architectural-led” requires an emotional and political detachment that will help drive the complex trade-offs and business decisions.  This implies a degree of independence from existing organizational functions, and the time and an ability to focus on future strategy, without being distracted by today’s fire-fighting issues (yes I know this is a hard ask!).

Recommendation #3: Consider engaging an independent enterprise architect and an experienced program manager to help bring together any silos.  Cisco Services can certainly help you with experts experienced in such challenges.

The Risks of Adopting “Cool” Technologies

As you evolve your IT architecture, you will undoubtedly want to re-use as much as possible of your existing investments.  You may also decide to evaluate new technology choices.   With this in mind, ensure you perform appropriate due diligence on any new technologies you may adopt.  Beware of adopting “cool technologies” just because they are “cool” – I’ve certainly seen more than a few “cool” products in my time that didn’t deliver value, nor fit into our architecture!  And most certainly, please that ensure new technologies you adopt are will support your business requirements, are future-proofed and deliver best-in-class Total Cost of Ownership (TCO).

Recommendation #4: Certainly beware of vendors who overpromise and underdeliver, those who leading independent analysts say “disappoint”, and those where the economic case just doesn’t stack up.

Architectural-led implies unique technical insight – is it sufficient to have access to “public domain” knowledge on the technologies involved in such transformations? Or does your organization, in order to gain further competitive advantage, need insights that can only come from the developers of the technologies and products involved?

Recommendation #5: Engage a professional services partner who can add unique intellectual property to your team and help you drive execution on your architectural strategy.

So where and how do organizations gain access to these types of resources?

Globally, many organizations are approaching Cisco for help with this market transition.  Customers recognize that they can only afford to have one attempt – and a successful attempt at that – at such an architectural transition.  They recognize that Cisco Services is executing on – not just one – but many of these types of architectural-led engagements worldwide.  You can find examples of what we offer in the Cisco Data Center Architecture Assessment Service, the Cisco Desktop Virtualization Strategy Service, and the Cisco Cloud Strategy Service.

Customers also note that Cisco can – as a direct result of its flexible organizational model, coupled with a partner centric approach to services that leverages best-in-class independent consultancy organizations – bring to the table best-in-class experienced resources from across the world.  Customers also find that Cisco Services can deliver unique Cisco intellectual property, which comes from direct collaboration between the Advanced Services team and the Cisco R&D organization.

My Personal Experience of Cisco Services Value (aka Why I Joined Cisco Services!)

Finally, let me give you a personal observation – which I first observed while working in the product side of Cisco, in our R&D organization.  Comparing customers of our MPLS network management products, I observed that those organizations engaging Cisco Services to help accelerate adoption of our products were measurably leapfrogging their competitors in terms of network and IT service capabilities, all of which can be pressed home for competitive advantage.

Summing Up

So now to summarise: given the demands upon the existing IT organization, what is the best way to achieve an architectural-led approach and avoid the Winchester house scenario?  Our experience in Cisco is showing that engaging Cisco Advanced Services via our Architectural Services helps accelerate customers along this journey, achieving rapid architectural transitions to generate new models for IT services delivery and competitive advantage for their business.

Feel free to ask me questions here on this topic, or indeed on any of my previous blogs.  I look forward to hearing your experiences and challenges or changing to an architectural-led approach!

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