In our ongoing series of book reviews for publications relevant to the Enterprise Architecture discipline, today we look at a book that is aimed not at practitioners, but at non-IT business executives. This is an important point. Education of business executives in subjects related to technology, is just as important as ensuring that Enterprise Architects have a good understanding of business practices.
I hope you enjoy the review.
An Executive Guide to the New Age of Corporate IT – Volume One: Understanding the Game
Author: R.M. Bastien Released: 2018
Subtitled “What you should know about Corporate IT but were never told”, this book provides business executives outside of the IT department with much needed insight into the current state of IT practices, and how they impact the organisation’s ability to deliver value through the technology function.
One of the key points made by the author is the misalignment of accountabilities and incentives for those that are responsible for delivering change. Through a building-related analogy, the book helps readers understand that when accountability for the delivery of a technology solution is given to the same people that are responsible for measuring its success, problems can and do occur.
Also prevalent in the chapters is a clear message that IT teams lack a coherent set of measures that can be used to assess the quality of services being provided to business. This is coupled with a lack of industry standards against which any performance can be measured. When you add in the lack of incentives for building adaptability into solutions, you find a growing and unsustainable complexity in IT environments, which ultimately costs the business more in the long term.
Through careful cnsideration of these factors, and related concerns within the business operation, the author also observes the tendency for IT teams to create silos, resulting in the types of issues that all experienced EA’s are familiar with. These include duplication of functionality and data, and the problems that ensue in regard to optimising business performance. When adding in the lack of treatment of IT systems as assets, and the tendency to shy away from activities such as documentation of those assets, this book provides readers with a compelling argument for change in the way technology-related projects are handled within organisations.
An EA’s Perspective
As mentioned above, it’s crucial for Enterprise Architects to understand business fundamentals, to help build rapport with business management and executives. It’s essential that management recognise the EA understands their concerns, and also how the EA’s decisions or recommendations will impact business operations and drivers (financial or otherwise).
By the same token, it is increasingly important that people responsible for operating a business understand more about the technology that supports their organisation, and the inner workings of the processes that bring about change in the technology space. It is no longer reasonable to just “throw things over the fence” to the IT team, and expect that future business needs will be met. A much more collaborative engagement is required, based on a common understanding of each other’s worlds.
The book also touches on the importance of what is often called the Non-Functional aspects of a solution. This is an area that EA’s can have a direct influence on, by ensuring that a clear set of principles, guidelines and checklists are established for projects to follow. Without these, a highly functional solution may still be entirely unusable, or worse, expose an organisation to siginificant risk (e.g. breaches of legislation).
This is a highly recommended book for anyone looking to understand how the delivery of IT services and technology-related change can be improved within an organisation. It suits an IT audience as much as it does its intended audience of non-IT management. It is only through the types of critical thinking and open dialogue enouraged by this book that the current state of IT delivery will be able to move in the direction needed to create more sustainable and adaptable organisations.
Have you read this book? Did you find it useful in your journey to becoming a better Enterprise Architect, or in your engagement with business executives? Let me know your thoughts in the comments section. If you have other books that you feel our readers would benefit from, please feel free to mention them below as well, or send me some details using the firstname.lastname@example.org email address.
I look forward to hearing from you.
Editor, Enterprise Architecture Professional Journal
About the Author
R.M. Bastien is a corporate IT insider writing from the trenches. Over the course of three decades, he’s held multiple roles in the IT departments of midsize to large organizations: programmer, business analyst, tester, database administrator, solution architect, data architect, enterprise architect, systems integrator. He also held several IT management positions, leading teams of IT architects in insurance, travel and transportation, telecommunications and banking. As an IT project management professional, he delivered projects of all kinds and has overseen the implementation and continuous improvement of project management offices. As a consultant, he helps his customers implement governance mechanisms to improve communications, quality or control and has made several organizational assessments of their IT architecture capability. Mr. Bastien holds a bachelor’s degree in management information systems and a research-oriented master’s in business administration. He’s been a certified project management professional (PMP)© since 2002. When he’s not busy helping customers, he develops and offers seminars on enterprise architecture, service-oriented architecture and soft skills for IT architects. When he’s not busy professionally, he renovates old houses or skips sailboats across oceans.