Friday, May 13, 2005

Architecture, Portfolio, and Standards

When it comes to technology, count me among the 'true believers' of Architecture, Portfolio, and Standards.

Mind you, there's no consensus regarding an exact definition of the term architecture. Rather, you'll find there are nearly as many kinds of IT architecture as there are flavors of Baskin-Robbins ice cream. For example:  computer architecture, hardware architecture, software architecture, system architecture, network architecture, enterprise architecture, business architecture, data architecture, application architecture, technology architecture, information architecture, security architecture, plus who knows how many other variants. Yet, among most highly respected IT professionals, you'll discover universal, often zealous, support for architectural principles and concepts.

If you think of architecture as somehow suggesting the notion of blueprints, then consider portfolio as corresponding to the IT equivalence of walls, floors, ceilings, roofs, foundations, etc.  A technology portfolio consists of all the IT products, systems, and services an enterprise purchases.

Frankly, I'm dismayed by how many IT organizations, from the CIO down, haven't a clue what they actually own. This often leads to costly, chronic problems, including the purchase of shelfware -- purchased but unused products -- as well as its converse -- cases where someone goes off and buys a product the enterprise already owns.

Probably the worst waste of IT resources stems from the unbridled acquisition by multiple, different project teams of multiple, different, competing tools that provide essentially identical, redundant functionality. Obviously, such decision-making fails to take into account how the total cost of a product's ownership (its TCO) extends far beyond its initial purchase price.

Finally, standards represent the very essence of goodness (see IT Standards Manifesto and Getting Started with Standards). There's perhaps nothing an IT organization can do to achieve a faster ROI (return on investment) than establishing, communicating, and enforcing standards.

In order for people to be able to readily find them, standards require a robust, easy-to-understand classfication hierarchy (i.e., category tree aka taxonomy). Ideally, standards should be visually organized so that anyone, at a glance, can quickly see which products to use and which to avoid when performing a particular type of task.


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