The Ugly Truth About the Challenges Facing IT

The Ugly Truth About the Challenges Facing IT

iStock_000017953852SmallTraditionally, IT has been overly influenced by application vendors. This has resulted in IT architectures that are either application or integration-focused, and not business process focused. Integrating a variety of application architectures from multiple vendors is complex and challenging; integrating with new cloud based offerings will further exacerbate this situation.

Because of governance and funding models resulting in long lead times for IT projects, business units have had to do whatever it takes to address their business needs. Not being able to wait for IT, business units have often moved ahead with implementation of many “one-off” or shadow applications that may or may not be integrated into the existing IT architecture.  To make things worse, mergers and acquisitions have introduced new software platforms and to an already fragmented IT architecture.

Because of the cost cutting that has occurred over the last five years, IT departments rarely have sufficient resources to manage this complexity and mess.  As a result, often multiple systems that perform the same tasks are deployed within an enterprise or business unit. Redundant infrastructure solutions for authentication, single sign-on, and data marts, as well as applications (packaged and custom) such as sales force automation (SFA), quoting, and order management compound, the complexity and cost for IT. This complex and fragmented architecture has made it nearly impossible—and definitely impractical—to modify the application portfolio to quickly and efficiently reflect a change in a business process or support a new acquisition.

In many organizations, IT groups have tried to integrate these siloed systems using a point-to-point or EAI approach that connected the application to both upstream and downstream systems. To track the transactions across the business process, IT propagated some key values across the applications—sometimes inconsistently—and created different operational data stores for each business unit to track key performance indicators. To provide a seamless user experience, IT has frequently built portal applications  to connect to multiple backend applications, data marts, and master data. While sometimes effective, such solutions are extremely complex and expensive to maintain or extend.

These solutions are difficult to modify, so when the business asks for a change, IT is slow to respond. This creates a perception of conflict.  Business units want their supporting IT organizations to be more agile, but don’t want to pay more. IT organizations need resources to keep legacy applications running, develop a more reliable and faster infrastructure, and add needed business capabilities. Traditional governance, organization, and project management models cannot resolve this conflict. The only way to meeting these ongoing business challenges is joint business and IT transformation.

Most business and IT executives agree on one fundamental business principle: their business processes differentiate them from their competition. For some, it may be the way they handle their supply chain; for others, it may be their ability to bring new, innovative products to market. Focusing on the business processes is important for enterprises to mature to a more flexible goal-oriented model.

IT and business unit personnel will continue to see many challenges moving into 2012. Information Technology is critical to enabling the business to respond to challenges, such as competitive pricing, offshore suppliers, and other issues that arise in today’s rapidly changing global marketplace. Business must be agile to survive globalization. When competitors can make the same product for less, a business needs to respond creatively—and quickly. IT is rarely given the opportunity to influence expectations and alternatives.

With economic growth slowing, businesses have concentrated on cost-cutting. IT has responded to budget cuts by outsourcing non-core functionality and adopting the offshore development model. While not ideal, this enables IT to free up some of its limited budget for development of new business capabilities. New technologies have the potential to create new business capabilities. But seizing new opportunities can also create new challenges, especially for IT, which usually has to figure out how a business will sell, supply, and bill for a new product or service.

With resources scarce, IT must make tough choices between maintaining and upgrading existing IT systems and investing in new systems to create new business opportunity.  However, organizations need a good tool and methodology to manage their application portfolio,  access project priorities based on business value, and to develop and manage requirements that deliver value to the business, prevent costly rework and avoid developing functionality that will probably never be used.

The Enfocus Requirement Suite™ from Enfocus Solutions Inc. is a powerful tool, knowledgebase, and framework that can be used to help organizations in a variety of areas such as application portfolio rationalization, business process improvement, and requirements development and management.  Applications may be defined in a product portfolio and evaluated for areas of improvement. Organizations can identify key stakeholders and make decisions to determine which applications should be retired, combined, or enhanced to deliver more value to the business.  Projects may be defined with specific business objectives and accountable stakeholders to make the necessary changes to the application portfolio. Needed changes can be defined as project scope statements. Additionally, each scope statement can include detailed requirements to ensure that the application support teams clearly understand what needs to be done to achieve the cost savings and improvements in delivering more business value.  To find out more, please download our product fact sheet.

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