Happy New Year! Like just about everyone else, I make personal resolutions to lose weight, eat healthier, and get in more exercise so that I can be healthy enough to chase after my kid. I think there’s an architectural equivalent of these resolutions – things that we can do to prepare our companies for the changes coming in the enterprise. Here are five “foundational” components that I think are necessary to support the broader technology trends of cloud, mobile, social. I’ll probably elaborate more on these topics in the future. Maybe I’ll even take a resolution to do so.
1. Achieve World Class Integration Capabilities
You can’t predict how the market or even technology will change, but you can be assured that it will and the rate of change will increase exponentially. Companies that will get ahead are those that can adapt quickly to the change. Your business is going to want more capabilities, many of them delivered by small applications that need to be integrated with your processes, data, and applications. It’s imperative, therefore, to start thinking of applications and data as modular services that can flexibly be coupled together. With Gartner predicting that system integration will take up more than 50% of all IT spending by 2015, you can’t afford to tell your business that they can’t have the capabilities they want quickly because the system integration is going to take a year. If you haven’t started your transformation to a services-oriented approach to integration, it’s time to get going.
Some areas to start are: establishing an integration center of excellence, defining your integration technologies and SOA backplane, building your integration pattern reference architecture and governance. For the advanced shop, start looking at where cloud-based integration fits into your model.
2. Fix Your Identity and Access Management
Your business is working more closely with external partners, more applications are being delivered as SAAS, and your employees increasingly want to access their applications on their mobile devices without having to VPN into your network. To ensure security, you better have a good handle on identity and access processes, both internally and with external parties. This is an area where you need to have a good partnership with the business as they’ll own many of these processes and you will need to be able to offer a flexible model to support multiple use cases.
To start: get clarity on core IAM processes – how does the data flow to provision users and role changes? Have you identified and rationalized your authoritative identity sources and data model? Define your governance model with the business. Ensure that you have a standard solutions approach for on-premise and SAAS-based applications. For more mature shops, it’s time to start thinking about the roadmap to identity-as-a-service.
3. Putting the “I” Back in IT
In my view, IT’s central value proposition is providing relevant and credible data that enables insights into the business to drive action. A lot of the hype in information management in recent years has been “big data,” which while important for some businesses, has also been a distraction from basic information hygiene and other practices to make data useful. You don’t need big data to make a big difference in the enterprise – you do need clean, relevant, and timely data. This is another area where active participation with the business is a necessity, as they will need to steward and govern the data.
To get started: Identify areas where analytics can contribute to top line growth. Many organizations have also started with enterprise performance management, where multiple lines of business need to agree on definitions and relationships. Make sure you have good information architects to help mediate and articulate the data areas. Ensure that you have a well-tuned governance process. For more advanced organizations, big data is certainly an area to look at as well as data federation.
4. Focus Your Security Strategy on What Matters
Security has been a hot topic for the past year, between the advanced persistent threats coming from governments foreign and domestic. Unsurprisingly, given the breadth of security gaps and risks, there are no lack of technologies to help: intrusion detection, firewalls, anti-malware, SIEM, DLP, whitelisting, administrative passwords, digital rights management, encryption, unified threat management, and more. Given the myriad of technologies and vendors, this is an area that I anticipate will consolidate into a suite or managed service as there’s too much complexity and integration for enterprises to manage. This is an opportune time, therefore, to determine what aspects of the enterprise need to be secured and what is the right mix of technologies that deliver an acceptable risk profile.
To start: Identify what aspects of your data need to be secure and what is the acceptable level of risk. Don’t apply a one-size-fits-all approach otherwise you’ll be looking at a pretty expensive security bill. Try to minimize the number of technologies required to provide adequate security to lower your overall complexity.
5. Get Into the Cloud
I still run into a fair amount of resistance to the cloud – largely dealing with security and legal protections. These are fair concerns and there’s no question that the cloud model hasn’t worked through all of it… yet. That said, there’s no question that the cloud is inevitable, especially for commodity infrastructure or complex applications where the cost to manage is too high. I think vendors are racing to get the appropriate security and legal protections in place but there’s no reason not to start preparing your organization for it now.
To start: Start socializing the concept with your CISO – they’ll have a lot of concerns that need to get addressed and this is a good opportunity to partner and learn together to ensure that you have the right solution. A lot of early scenarios have focused on provisioning development and test environments in a cloud – I think this is compelling – especially from a cost perspective since your risk exposure is low. For more advanced shops, experiment with the public cloud and complex SAAS applications. For example, any third-party application that’s being developed using agile methods, I prefer to deploy as SAAS as there’s no way for an enterprise to reasonably keep up with that kind of upgrade schedule.