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Is it the Business Need or the Technical Solution?

By dotxen ·
When designing a blue-print for an infrastructure, which is the driving issue, the Business need, or the technical solution?

My Project Managers and IT MD insist that the Business need is primary and the technology is irrelevant. My opinion is that the technical solution is paramount and it is imperative that the solution provides the company with a future-proof design that is both effective and resilient.

If the Business need is concerned with Performance, Availability (ours is currently 99.9%) and TCO, which I am told it is, then the answer must be a technical one, as it is the effectiveness of the technologies implemented that will provide the Business with the solution to it?s ?need?.

I am sure that this dilemma is shared by many other Technical Architects involved in large and complex design projects. How can we provide a solution which is solely based on the Business need? Surely that ?need? is subjective and current? That need may change dramatically over time. Whereas, if I make my decisions based on technology I will provide the Business with an infrastructure that encompasses it?s ?need? now and over a required period of time.

When I put forward that view I am immediately told to stop ?solutionising?, that the technologies are not important, and that it is the Business ?need? that is my guide. I find this confusing and frustrating. How can I provide an infrastructure if I can?t solutionise and make my decisions on particular technologies?

I get very irritated by the response of my managers, and I feel that it is hindering my decision making processes. Right now I want to chuck a load of NT4 486 machines at them. After all, it would satisfy the current Business need and the non-functional requirements, and requires no solutionising or technical answers on my part.

Help I?m an Infrastructure Technical Architect, get me out of here!

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I understand you frustration but it is ususlly both

by faradhi In reply to Is it the Business Need o ...

Your frustration is understandable. Ultimately, business need is what gives IT direction. However there is often not a direct business need.

For example, If I do not have mobile users then I have no need to implement a VPN. It is the business need for the mobile user to connect to the network that drives the IT decision to implement a VPN. You would not purchase a VPN solution just because VPN is possible.

However, there are those times when IT changes need to be made that do not have a DIRECT business need. In those cases, you must find the underlying business need and communicate it. An example would be Upgrading from NT4 to Win2K3 AD. Technically the solution is the upgrade. However a business manager may not see the business need because the NT4 network meets current needs. However, because of End of Life issues. NT4 will not remain a secure platform. (Whether or not it ever had been secure is another debate.) The Business need would be to have a secure and available platform. Your job would be to communicate that the business need no longer possible with your current technology.

This is really a game we all must play. Managers tend to think that the Geeks just want to play with technology. (Like we have time.) Managers use words and phrases like "TCO", "Business Need" and "ROI" to try to prevent Technology for Technology sake. It is a fact that we have to now make sales pitches to convince short sighted management that there is need for the tech we want to implement. I don't like it but it is the business environment we currently have.

I hope this helps.

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Excellent reply

by stress junkie In reply to I understand you frustrat ...

When I was reading the original post I was thinking that the person was failing to understand that the business need drives the design of the technical solution. Then when I read your reply I thought "That's what I was going to say!". You really hit the nail on the head.

Good job.

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IT strategy must follow business strategy

by M_a_r_k In reply to I understand you frustrat ...

Good reply, faradhi. I want to add to what you said and make a couple of additional comments.

The question posted by robb was about technical infrastructure. This should fall under the overall area of IT strategy. And IT strategy must be congruent with the business strategy. It's a top-down approach. The business strategy is a set of short-, medium-, and long-term plans for where the business want to go (what markets to compete in) and how it wants to get there. There are always a number of key critical success factors that help the business get execute its strategy. Finally consider IT and what technology can do to help the business execute its strategy. This would be the IT strategy.

The goal for technology use influences the approach to developing, operating and managing IT. There are two important dimensions to consider: 1) impact of IT on core operations, and 2) impact of IT on core strategy. All business should be able to plot their point in a four-quadrant matrix of the IT impact on operations and strategy. Low operations impact/low strategic impact, low/high, high/low and finally high impact to both operations and strategy.

Ask the following five questions:
1) How can IT be used to assist in core value activities (such as purchasing, manufacturing or sales)?
2) How can IT change the balance of power between buyers and suppliers? Does it make your product more valuable to buyers (raising your sales price)? Will it make suppliers be more eager to sell to you (lowering your purchase price) or maybe simply lower your suppliers' costs by making the supplier-to-business process more efficient (Dell is an example).
3) How can IT increase barriers to entry for other potential competitors into your industry?
4) How can IT increase switching costs for customers who buy your products? (Commodities like gasoline have very low switching costs. Proprietary or specialized products (like an operating system) have high switching costs.)
5) How can IT add value to existing products or services, or create new products or services?

faradhi's example of the VPN is an excellent example of IT following business strategy. No need for any mobile users equals a NO answer to all of the above questions. The Windows NT-to-Win 2003 upgrade is not part of the business strategy. This is a budgeted for and forecasted part of doing business and should be part of the medium-term IT plan. Software should have planned retirement dates and so this would merely be an upgrade, not a strategic decision. It would only be strategic if, when NT is no longer a feasible OS, a decision has to be made between upgrading to Windows 2003 or switching to Linux or something else.

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Absolutely

by dotxen In reply to I understand you frustrat ...

I agree with your reply and I can see that what you say is the current 'atmosphere'.

I guess I was feeling pretty fristrated and irritated when I decided to write the thread.

The project I am designing for is driving me nuts. I know exactly what is required, but there seems to be an endless number of rejections and demands from management based on their refusal to accept that a technical solution will satisfy the business need. That's my perspective.

However, I know that you are right and it is a matter of me adjusting my perspective. It's difficult, as I am not just a paper ITA, I have many years on the tools, as it were, as a practicing network system engineer. I see the job in real terms and not through the Project Manager's lens.

I guess that right now I am not managing change very well!

Thanks for your help. All is noted.

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I understand you frustration but it is ususlly both

by faradhi In reply to Is it the Business Need o ...

Your frustration is understandable. Ultimately, business need is what gives IT direction. However there is often not a direct business need.

For example, If I do not have mobile users then I have no need to implement a VPN. It is the business need for the mobile user to connect to the network that drives the IT decision to implement a VPN. You would not purchase a VPN solution just because VPN is possible.

However, there are those times when IT changes need to be made that do not have a DIRECT business need. In those cases, you must find the underlying business need and communicate it. An example would be Upgrading from NT4 to Win2K3 AD. Technically the solution is the upgrade. However a business manager may not see the business need because the NT4 network meets current needs. However, because of End of Life issues. NT4 will not remain a secure platform. (Whether or not it ever had been secure is another debate.) The Business need would be to have a secure and available platform. Your job would be to communicate that the business need no longer possible with your current technology.

This is really a game we all must play. Managers tend to think that the Geeks just want to play with technology. (Like we have time.) Managers use words and phrases like "TCO", "Business Need" and "ROI" to try to prevent Technology for Technology sake. It is a fact that we have to now make sales pitches to convince short sighted management that there is need for the tech we want to implement. I don't like it but it is the business environment we currently have.

I hope this helps.

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Yes and no

by Tony Hopkinson In reply to Is it the Business Need o ...

Management are still very scared of us 'propeller heads' who go pick an IT solution based on some purist notion, with no reference to the business requirement. Your best attack is the cost of implementing a 'cheap' solution, in that it's going to have to be redone when the business need changes.
Your business has a stragey and a plan to implement it. Which of the goals set out in the plan would be made impossible or much more expensive to achieve with a poor solution.

NB if there aren't any, you've been guilty of being a propeller head.

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conveyancing costs

by Delmar99 In reply to Is it the Business Need o ...

Hi........,

Sorry I don't have any clear idea about this. Hope some one will help you.


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