Traditionally, the role of IT operations has been to keep apps and systems running well for the business. But in the era of cloud, DevOps and disruptive technology, keeping the lights on isn’t enough. IT operations people need a broader view of business needs. They need to evolve the infrastructure stack in ways that will maintain stability yet also support business goals. This is no easy shift for people who’ve grown their careers by focusing squarely on the technology: procuring and configuring servers, storage devices and network components.
Enter the enterprise architect. Enterprise architects live and breathe business requirements and are a liaison between business leaders and IT. They’re responsible for building a long-term plan for technology evolution aligned with digital business initiatives. Enterprise architects are stewards of enterprise data and thus have typically established many solid relationships across not only IT but business functions as well. Typically, they are advisers to C-level executives and traditionally report to either the CIO or the CTO.
The chief architect can also be a valuable partner to the director of IT operations and his staff. Here’s how:
- EAs bridge the gap with business units, helping define business services and their requirements which ITOps need to meet, and gathering end-user feedback which drives planning and staffing.
- EAs bring a deep understanding of enterprise data assets, data connectivity and business applications—perspectives that help ITOps define key business service management goals.
- Architects also assess the need for new infrastructure technologies and take a strong hand in evaluating vendor platforms.
The relationship between IT operations and enterprise architects may not be an easy one, since IT operations have been accustomed to working independently. They may not welcome other people/teams advising them on which monitoring systems to use, for instance, or how to prioritize incidents. Yet, better collaboration will ultimately help IT operations teams by improving their sometimes-contentious role with the business and providing a deeper understanding of the relationship between network and business outcomes. The following use cases illustrate how this can work.
Driving the Roadmap Between Current and Future State
One of the activities that enterprise architects conduct is creating a technology reference model: a list of all the technologies used in the business and notations as to which ones are approaching EOL and should be replaced. The EA’s job is to reduce organizational risk from outdated and misaligned tools and systems. On the other hand, IT operations managers have the viewpoint of managing risk; when a key infrastructure technology is suddenly jettisoned, that jeopardizes the health of business applications. EAs and ITOps teams have an opportunity to get on the same page, developing a transition plan together for moving to new technologies in a way that meets business needs and minimizes IT performance risk.
Improving the Stack for Business Value
As part of creating a long-term technology strategy, EAs focus on ROI. When ITOps share performance data on applications and systems, the EAs have critical data points to determine whether an application is too problematic–causing too many issues for too little business value–to maintain. Examples include moving from custom-built CRM to a COTS CRM or moving from on-premises email to Office 365 to increase availability and reliability of email.
Justifying and Evaluating New Systems
IT operations regularly want to purchase point monitoring software. They like what they see in a couple of new startups focusing on cloud monitoring and optimization or something specific for monitoring databases. But they may not know that another group, say in the EU region, is using something that could be applied to solve the issue. EAs can supply an holistic picture of the problem and how to solve it. In some cases, it’s not about buying a new system but leveraging an existing one to reduce complexity and minimize spend. EAs can also bring a business/user lens to assess user experience, such as AIOps. What effects could an AI application have on improving service delivery, and showing customers that IT is there to make work easier?
The EA and ITOps teams need to work together to support the business. Enterprise architects should bring to the table their understanding of business needs, existing technologies and their knowledge of technology investments that are being proposed outside of IT. Meanwhile, ITOps can bring granular information about device failures, common issues and preferred vendors, which helps guide the EA’s recommendations to business stakeholders. Together, these two critical roles can develop enterprise IT strategies which help the business succeed.