We know that a large part of today’s IT world is still based on so-called “legacy technology” and that the business side of large companies is often not happy about what they get from their internal IT. They see IT as an inflexible black box that costs too much. Moreover, in their opinion IT is a big heavy monster that is difficult to align with ongoing industry changes.

I strongly feel that this perception gap is not diminishing and that IT departments are heavily under pressure. Unfortunately, there is no silver bullet for cleaning up legacy shortfalls and improve the situation.

A few weeks ago, a friend from a financial services provider asked me if we could help them to clean up their IT mess. “You are an IT management consulting company after all”, she said. She was hoping that we could come in, clean everything up and fly away, like superman.

I told her that if we worked for them, we would first focus most of our work on enterprise architecture. We would typically suggest to move forward in line with the following steps:

  1. Understand and analyze the current IT situation with regard to the business and IT strategy

  2. Sit with business representatives to draw the business architecture, including a business domain map and critical business objects

  3. Understand the existing application and data landscape and analyze its characteristics and issues

  4. Define principles for how the landscape should be evolved. For example, one principle could demand strict alignment of the landscape with business domains and the data architecture’s alignment with business objects

  5. Draw a long-term visionary state of how the landscape should look like

  6. Identify migration scenarios and assess them based on the business and IT goals of the company

  7. Choose one of the scenarios and come up with an implementation plan

In most cases, the business side of the company will accept the implementation plan. They understand that there is money to be invested until there is a cleaner landscape that is more flexible and costs less.

Seems straightforward? Well, it isn’t.

Never forget the implementation part. It’s true that a good enterprise architecture team knows how to approach the problem and could help to come up with a good plan. However, they are not implementing it.

Recently McKinsey (1), in collaboration with the University of Oxford, published some statistics about IT projects. They state that “on average, large IT projects run 45 percent over budget and 7 percent over time, while delivering 56 percent less value than predicted.” This is not different with architecture projects. They can and sometimes will fail.

What should IT management do then? Of course, they should leverage their enterprise architecture teams in the best way possible; let them lead the work described above. But don’t stop there. Assign the best project leaders to your critical architecture implementation projects. Take responsibility. Show stamina. Even in case of reorganizations and responsibility changes, don’t stop in the middle of nowhere and keep going if the way forward still appears to be the right one.

“Unfortunately, we cannot provide you with a silver bullet”, I told my friend. “There is lots of work to be done. However, you will achieve your goals if you remember that the most important success factor in your enterprise architecture endeavor is your company excelling at core project management.”

(1) https://www.mckinseyquarterly.com/Business_Technology/Delivering_large-scale_IT_projects_on_time_on_budget_and_on_value_3026