In this industry, it’s not uncommon to attempt a rollout of a new technology – only to find that your production environment, customer base or end user is not ready for what you are about to unleash on them.
In my last blog, I focused on two common problem areas: Failure to define useable requirements and incomplete understanding of the use case. Here I’ll explore two additional areas that are frequently trouble spots.
Problem No. 3: Absentee Architecture
There is a debate in some circles concerning whether “architecture” and “design” are the same thing. I have heard it put this way: “While not all design is architecture, all architecture is design.”
In my worldview, they are indeed different, but the differences are subtle and stem from our orientation in the lifecycle. Enterprise architecture is oriented toward business or technical strategy, defining the purpose, and outlining the structure. It is a reflection of your business imperatives that is articulated in a more abstract way.
A “design” is oriented toward technology implementation – your solution in practice. It is a more concrete expression of your use case in action.
Both architecture and design are essential. Architecture without a complementary design does nothing. A design without architecture tends to be optimized for a singular purpose. Most likely anchored to current techniques or technologies, it tends to miss “the big picture.” In order to create a solution that addresses your needs in a useful and sustainable way, you must have both: a properly conceived architecture and a clearly defined design.
Why am I making this point? One problem that I come across quite often is that customers fail to have a clearly defined Enterprise Architecture. They may think they have an architecture, but what they really have is a design. Moreover, they often have just a Visio diagram and a Bill Of Materials (BOM). That is not an architecture and it barely qualifies as much more than a point solution. If your engineering team is giving you a Visio and a BOM and calling it “the solution,” then your project is most definitely in for a rocky future.
Your Enterprise Architecture should focus on capturing your business objectives and drivers (i.e. “purpose”). It should outline your technical and business strategy in the near term and at least three years into the future. It should, at a high-level, define how information flows through your business: inputs, processes and outputs.
Problem No. 4: Improper Understanding of the Technology
Technology is a tool. Like any tool, a particular technology is only effective when applied in the appropriate manner on the right job. In today’s world, the myriad of technologies available to businesses is complicated. Understanding technology and determining how to make it work for you is fundamental to the sustainable success of your solution.
It is worth noting that understanding what a particular technology can’t do is as important as understanding what it can do.
In my experience, problems arising from improper technology selection manifest in the following ways:
- Lack of understanding of integration with other systems. You have to understand how your new solution integrates and interoperates with your existing applications and infrastructure. For example, in my space (UC & Collaboration), it is common to find that our solutions drive change in the LDAP, DNS, and security (PKI) infrastructures. If you don’t understand all of the touch points – and plan accordingly – then you could be in trouble.
- Lack of open standards adoption. When you have a single vendor solution end-to-end, open standards may not seem necessary. However, in today’s world, B2B and B2C interactions are moving beyond telephones and static web content. Leveraging technologies that have a firm foundation in open standards and protocols is fundamental to controlling costs that arise from interoperability requirements with autonomous entities in your consumer or business network.
- De-emphasized operational requirements. Maintaining a deployed solution is a critical part of ensuring that the solution is delivering the services our consumers require. At a minimum, we should ask ourselves the question: How will I measure the value of this new solution? Think beyond password resets and basic uptime monitoring. Business analytics, system health, and monitoring KPIs are just the start. You also need to ensure that your help desk staff has well-defined standard operating procedures that address the eventual end user need. In your project’s schedule and budget, make sure to account for operationalization of your solution.
- Poor user training and adoption. In many cases, the technology you are deploying is going to impact the user experience. This impact can be positive and quickly convert into added productivity – or it can become the bane of your existence and drive productivity through the floor. This all comes down to user adoption. Understanding the use case is a good start. But you still need to prime the pump. Reach out to your users in advance, and design well thought-out pilots (I like to call them “friends and family” programs). Provide training before you introduce change, conduct surveys to track how you are doing, and make sure there is accessible and consumable content for continued user education.
I’m convinced that you will never truly tap the full potential of a new technology unless you take the time to define requirements, understand use cases, develop an Enterprise Architecture, and operationalize your solution.
Investing time on the front end into understanding how you will use a technology will go a long way toward ensuring sustainable success over the long haul.
At NetCraftsmen we have experience in highly successful rollouts of new technology. Feel free to contact us to find out how we can help with your projects.