A diagrammatical approach to modelling technology strategy

Last week, I wrote about the architectural work my team is doing to standardise the way we deploy technology. But not everything I do for my customers is a “standard” solution. I also get involved in strategic consulting, stepping away from the solution and looking at the business challenges an organisation is facing, then looking at how Microsoft technologies can be applied to address those issues. Sometimes that’s in the form of one of our core transformational propositions and sometimes I’m asked to deliver something more ad-hoc.

One such occasion was a few weeks ago when I worked with a customer to augment their IT team, which doesn’t include an architecture capability. They are preparing for an IT transformation programme, triggered by an office move but also by a need for flexibility in a rapidly growing business. As they’ve matured their IT Service Management approach, they’ve begun to think about technology strategy too, and they wanted some help to create a document, based on a template that had been provided by another consultant.

I like this kind of work – and I’m pretty pleased with the outcome too. What we came up with was a pictorial representation of the IT landscape with a current state (“as-is”) view on the left, a future state (“to be”) view on the right, and a transformational view of priorities and dependencies (arranged into “swim-lanes”) in the centre.

I’m sure many organisations have similar approaches, but this really was a case of a picture is worth a thousand words. In this case, the period covered was short – just two years – but I also suggested we should add another view on the right, showing the target state further out, to give a view of the likely medium-term position (e.g. 5 years).

Each representation of the IT landscape has a number of domains/services (which will eventually relate to service catalogue items, once defined), and within each service are the main components, colour coded as follows:

  • Red (Retire): components that exist but which should be retired (for example the technologies used have reached the end of their lifecycle). These must not be used in new solutions.
  • Amber (Tolerate): components that exist but for which the supporting technologies are reaching the end of their lifecycle or are not strategic. These may only be used in new solutions with approval from senior IT management (i.e. the Head of IT – or the Chief Technology Officer, if there is one).
  • Green (Mainstream): These are the core building blocks for new solutions that are put in place.
  • Blue (Emerging): These are the components and technologies that are being considered, being implemented, or are expected to become part of the landscape within the period being modelled.

It’s important to recognise that this view of the technology strategy is just a point-in-time snapshot. It can’t be left as a static document and needs to be reviewed periodically. Even so, it gives some guidance from which to generate a plan of activities, so that the target vision can become reality.

I’m sure it’s not new, but it would be good to know the origin of this approach if anyone has used something similar in the past!

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