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IT Silos and the Need for Enterprise Architecture

It’s time to reign in the unplanned proliferation of tools used to manage IT, writes ITSM Watch columnist Valerie Arraj of Compliance Process Partners.
Feb 13, 2009

Valerie Arraj


Consider the following scenario: You are responsible for the care and feeding of a power plant that services a major region of the country. In this capacity, you must tightly manage each of the following areas or risk a major power outage or power degradation to a densely populated area that is home to a major world financial center.


Your job is to:


  • Assure continuous availability of power
  • Guarantee power capacity during times of peak utilization
  • Provide ongoing maintenance of all aspects of the plant without disrupting service
  • Add new capacity or upgrade equipment as needed
  • Deal with disruptions as they occur with the goal of rapid service restoration
  • Interface to new power sources as they become available.

Now imagine that the 15 or so departments that are responsible for each area of the plant and each type of technology required use a different system to:


  • Track equipment
  • Manage and schedule changes
  • Report and resolve incidents
  • Monitor availability and performance.

Let’s suppose that the different tools used in the 15 or so departments are not integrated. How efficient do you think your power plant will be? How effectively do you think you will be able to run things?


On face value, this scenario is unrealistic. Who would operate a power plant without across the board visibility? Think of all the systems that are critical to providing power to every customer and every event that can potentially impact the ability to meet the obligation to deliver service. Or is this situation really as implausible as it seems.


Taking this analogy a step further, the IT department is the “power plant” of the enterprise. IT is responsible for all of the critical systems of the business entity it supports—supply chain, HR, payroll, demand chain, etc. Although the nature of their “services” are certainly different, the IT department and the power plant have similar responsibilities to provide continuous, reliable service to their respective customers. Yet, so many IT organizations operate as a group of functional silos when it comes to the delivery and operation of the business of IT. Each of these silos uses its own tools at various levels of sophistication to deal with the realm of technology for which it is responsible.


Maybe because IT is an embedded business unit, which typically operates as an overhead function to a larger organization, causes this group to lose sight of managing itself as a stand alone service provider with its own supply chain and demand chain. Regardless of the cause, the islands of automation IT organizations use to monitor and control changes, incidents, availability, capacity and performance make the ability to manage services and guarantee service levels challenging at best.


EA for the “Business of IT”


There are three dimensions of IT architecture which must align to an overriding business architecture. These represent the processes and operating models required for business success.


These are:


  • Application architecture – Assuring that application components are structured such that they represent the business needs for functionality, availability, performance, continuity and security with consideration to all of the internal and external interfaces required.
  • Infrastructure architecture – Designing underlying infrastructure components that accommodate the business needs with respect to availability, performance, continuity and security with consideration to the relationships and connectivity to both internal and external services.
  • Information or data architecture – Organizing data both logically and physically to meet the transactional and reporting needs of the business taking into consideration interfaces to both internal and external data providers and subscribers. 

These dimensions of IT architecture must be crafted in unison under the guidance of an enterprise architect to provide holistic IT solutions or services to the business. The enterprise architecture must consider current needs, future needs, cost, skills, innovation and risk.


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