Friday 20 September 2013

Architectural boosts for SMB companies

Many SMB companies today face similar issues as their bigger counterparts when it comes to effectiveness of their IT. They share the same problems of IT decay also known as technical debt. They also struggle to transform into the digital world of today.
Since they are smaller they ought to be more flexible and agile, right? Personally, I believe that culture and depth of legacy processes/systems are slowing them down as much as bigger companies. However, they do have the advantage that they tend to be less complex because there's less of everything than what is seen in bigger enterprises. Having less processes and fewer systems give them by nature an edge as they can get away with less control and governance. We usually say that they don't need to spent so much energy in "variance control".

Medium sized companies have been doing business for years on a "more of the same" principle. With the move to a digital world they have to take a step back and think more strategically, which is something they're not used to do. It is common for SMB companies to have an organic evolution of their IT landscape, meaning the IT systems are adapted on a change request by change request basis. Typically this renders an IT landscape less and less fit for purpose for the business needs that it tries to fulfil.

The business effectiveness of an IT landscape over time
Investing in Enterprise Architecture can close the gap between what a company wants to do and what it is able to do. It would be stupid to think IT is the only gap here. Instead, improving your processes, redefining your products and changing the company culture are equal responsible.

In big companies there's usually a department with Enterprise Architects that try to keep the IT landscape as healthy as possible and align it optimally to the business strategy. Smaller companies are not able to have a few of those on their payroll and would rather hire them instead.

Personally I don't care if the SMB company hires an Enterprise Architect, a Solution Architect or any other person. As long as that person has enough knowledge about the business as well as the IT industry. You want to look for people who are able to view from 10.000 feet.

After an initial alignment you can keep your IT landscape in an optimal shape by tuning it again for the business needs at hand on a certain interval. Ideally you would have someone in house who can take up this role, but not everyone can do this and as said, it is not really possible for every company to have one FTE dedicated on it.
Regular architectural boost in your IT landscape

One can make the best plans if they are not executed well, they're worth nothing. Especially for IT organisations that are used to fix bugs and perform change requests they tend to be less organised for bigger projects. So if you recognize that your company is not in a good shape to change the IT landscape appropriately you might want to consider to outsource these projects or hire good external engineers. It is often that external engineers have the motivation, skills and initiatives to get these projects done. These people also tend to take your internal IT staff with them on their journey to deliver the projects in a quality & timely fashion.