3 tips for making smart tech decisions

Enterprise architects (EAs) are instrumental to aligning IT and business values. They ensure IT infrastructure runs smoothly so the business can implement new strategies.

As a result, making sense of technology, application systems and large masses of data can understandably leave many EAs feeling overstretched. Furthermore, business stakeholders are now laying claim to EAs’ time and talents as well. As enterprises embrace the digital transformation, their day to day practices and measure of success has evolved. Businesses are now looking at EAs to reduce costs, manage risk, and create new business opportunities.

It’s time for enterprise architects to start having business conversations about technology instead of technology conversations about business. Here are three tips for enterprises looking to make more informed tech decisions:

1. Find the middle ground between business & IT:

The separation between IT and the business can result in business partners being unable to understand the rationale for and the implications of the technology decisions made by IT. They may feel that the reasoning for technology decisions is unclear or unaligned with their business needs.

In fact, a recent IDG survey found EA teams evaluate emerging trends from a technology standpoint, not a business perspective. EA teams must demonstrate how they can help the business make smarter decisions about technology investments-- without referencing technology. To achieve this, IT departments should show how the applications and systems under consideration relate to the business capabilities and services they support. This results in IT initiatives being more aligned with the business outcomes which demonstrate their value to business strategy.

It also involves learning how to communicate and translate IT strategy into business strategy, and being more collaborative in helping the business make smarter decisions when it comes to technology.  This way, organisations can clearly see how EA decisions impact the business– from objectives and approach to business capabilities. This means that opportunities and risks can be evaluated in the context of the entire enterprise. Decision-makers become equipped with the insights they need to make business investment decisions faster and with greater confidence. Consequently, EA teams become integral to the strategic planning process.

2. Support decisions with right data:

Finding data that supports technology decisions is not a challenge. However, finding accurate, relevant data can be tricky and time-consuming. With cheaper storage options, growing demands from leadership, and the natural tendency to save everything has led decision makers being inundated with data. Presenting business stakeholders with large masses of data drawn from spreadsheets is not an ideal way to support a complex decisions.

The first step is isolating the relevant data from the rest. IT should work with their stakeholders to understand the key drivers and KPIs for their decision process. Analysing the data and presenting it in a context that will be relevant for those who need to make the decisions.

3. Visualise your data:

No matter how well you structure your data analysis, presenting it for understanding is often a tedious, error-prone exercise involving spreadsheets and presentations that, all too often, miss their intended targets. While spreadsheets may have served the EA practice well in the past, as the enterprise and its portfolios grow, it can be challenging for spreadsheets to keep up. 

Linking, macros, and version control get thrown off kilter too easily, rolling up multiple spreadsheets manually is laborious and error-laden, and updating to account for current data is a painful process. Purpose-built solutions designed for EAs will not only scale with their needs more effectively, they will greatly simplify the search for relevant and up-to-date data. They will also help visualise the data, so that the EA team can tell the story it needs to, better than they could using a dozen spreadsheets or presentations could. A good visualisation can make the correct decision seem obvious. But stakeholders often want to understand the back story before committing. Using the right visualisation tool means EA teams can click through from the high level to see the complex data that supports the initial view, examine it from every angle and review it with their business partners and leadership to ensure complete buy-in. Both parties can then move forward with total confidence.

Business stakeholders look to enterprise architects to propel their businesses’ success. The reality is, the IT landscape is changing and with this, EAs have the opportunity to become strategic advisors to the business as a whole – not just on technical decisions. This will ensure the organisation can capture the benefits of the digital economy.

Jeff Ellerbee, Solutions Marketing Manager for Troux by Planview

Image source: Shutterstock/violetkaipa