This article – ITAM for Business Analysts & Architects – is the fourth in a four part series by AJ Witt of ITAM Review written in collaboration with ServiceNow’s Ryan Wood-Taylor & Peter Beruk. The series outlines how a strategic ITAM practice will deliver enhanced business value through creation of strategic stakeholder relationships.
The article series is also available as a whitepaper, downloadable here (no registration required)
Previous articles in this series have presented different perspectives on ITAM for key stakeholders. We’ve explored how ITAM can deliver service improvements for business-as-usual activities undertaken by Service Desk & EUC. We’ve seen how ITAM is foundational to a robust Security Operations capability. This article completes the series by highlighting how ITAM can get strategic – supporting value creation, digital transformation, and delivering on long-term strategic goals. Your key stakeholders here are IT Business Analysts and Technology Architects.
IT Business Analysts (BAs) work with business stakeholders to find, select, and agree on solutions to business requirements. For example, a business stakeholder will engage a BA to determine the best way to improve the service delivered by a customer contact centre.
Technology Architects take the output from the BA process and design a solution to deliver the desired outcomes for the business stakeholder. They also take a high-level view of the IT capability of the organisation as a whole, recommending, specifying, and designing infrastructure-wide enhancements. The aim is to understand the “as-is” technology landscape and interdependencies & provide the organisation with the IT architecture that meets their current and future needs.
Both roles work strategically and have a broad view of the organisation’s technology landscape. BAs may specialise in certain areas – for example, workflow & collaboration solutions – and similarly there are both generalist and specialist architects. For example, Cloud Architects are critical to digital transformation programmes as organisations move workloads from on-premise to cloud.
Whilst they are looking ahead, they also need to focus on managing the existing technology portfolio – understanding whether existing assets can be leveraged to deliver new capabilities or determining when applications and services are reaching end of life. They’ll understand if there is an element of the technology portfolio that’s getting in the way of the business delivering value for its customers and recommend solutions.
Both roles work to manage uncertainty for an organisation. They are bringing order to a degree of chaos – distilling a desired business outcome into a robust, serviceable, cost-effective solution that’s fit for purpose. These are first and foremost creative roles, enabling efficient decision-making and predictable, cost-effective IT delivery against an agreed business case.
The nature of IT means that there are many ways to achieve a desired business outcome.
Architects and BAs have to decide whether to build a solution in-house, or to buy an application or service. They need to decide where the solution will be deployed – on premises, or in the cloud – and they need to know how the solution will be managed once deployed.
Before all that though, they need to gain insight into what the current application & service portfolio looks like. This task is not be underestimated. An organisation’s IT landscape evolves over many years and mapping technology assets to products and services is complex, particularly without robust ITAM & IT Service Management. Without this, discovery is reliant upon documentation or individual knowledge.
Without certainty about your environment it becomes easy to cause unintended disruption by making a change to a system that you don’t know other systems are relying on. Understanding relationships between systems also enables strategic decision-making. The first deliverable therefore is to provide Architects and BAs with a normalised, high level view of the technology assets in use, and their interdependencies.
With interdependencies mapped and discovered it becomes possible to answer questions such as “Where should I target technology investments in order to receive the greatest benefit?” For example, by mapping interdependencies, you may identify that a back office system is a key shared component of several products and services and is therefore a prime candidate for upgrade, or that it needs to be covered by an enhanced Service Level Agreement.
This activity bridges ITAM data, the CMDB, and Application & Service Catalogues. The key information that ITAM contributes here is what is installed (and available), support status, cost, usage, and manageability of a given asset. For example, ITAM will know the upgrade/downgrade rights for a software title. ITAM will also know where that application is in its lifecycle – is it in mainstream support, extended support, or end of life. With this information, BAs and Architects are able to identify the best use of existing technology assets. If they know that a product is going to be out of support in two years, they can plan accordingly – for example by making a strategic decision to replace that product with a more up-to-date version which may offer increased functionality.
With clear view of the existing landscape, along with a technology strategy roadmap, ITAM’s next deliverable for Architecture & Business Analysis is to help assess the various options for delivering a new application or service. Typically, for ITAM, this will focus on ensuring that any investments are cost-effective. The detailed knowledge ITAM professionals hold about the organisation’s environment enables them to model various deployment and asset acquisition options. Business Analysts in particular may be assessing 3 or 4 options for meeting a requirement. ITAM professionals are uniquely placed in the organisation to provide accurate cost estimates. A strategic ITAM team models the TCO, NPV, IRR, or other financial metrics of potential technology investments.
ITAM teams are a key stakeholder for digital transformation programmes for three reasons.
Consider the scenario of a Datacentre Architect seeking to add capacity to an on-premises Datacentre, or to shift workloads to public cloud. Adding capacity on-premises will increase license demand and the ITAM team will be able to advise the best approach to meeting that demand, thereby ensuring license compliance. For the cloud deployment scenario, an ITAM team may determine that existing on-premises license entitlements can be used to reduce cloud costs. They may also be able to reassign licenses freed up by the cloud shift to improve in-house capability. Furthermore, in European Union countries, they may be able to dispose of those redundant licenses in the secondary software market, reducing the total cost of the project.
The holistic view ITAM teams share with Architects means that by working together they can transform the organisation’s technology capability. Building the business case and funding for transforming a company’s underlying architecture and capability requires a multi-disciplinary approach well-suited to ITAM teams. BAs & Architects will focus on technical capabilities and outcomes and ITAM teams will model the TCO using licensing and environment knowledge. For example, the ITAM team may advise that the most cost-effective approach to improving database capabilities is to create a dedicated cluster for Oracle Database or SQL Server. Or, they may recommend that making a long-term commitment to a database technology in the form of an Oracle ULA (Unlimited License Agreement) or Microsoft SCE (Server & Cloud Enrolment) is the way to go.
An example I encountered was a long-standing unlimited deployment entitlement for what had been earmarked as legacy software. It became possible to use this entitlement to fulfil a new demand for the capability it provided, resulting in a 6-figure cost reduction for the project. This was made possible by ensuring that the ITAM team was consulted during the business analysis and architecture phases of the project delivery. In the case of application rationalisation, the ITAM team will have the rich application and usage data to answer questions such as “Which productivity applications are under-utilised?” or “Which design package should we standardise on?”
This article has outlined how strategic ITAM can improve the decisions made by Business Analysts and Architects. Whilst much of your engagement as an ITAM manager with these functions will be ad hoc, there are also practical opportunities to formalise your relationship with them.
The first opportunity is to ensure that ITAM is consulted as part of the BA & Architecture process. Both functions are likely to have formal processes in place for managing requests; ensure that ITAM sign-off is mandatory for all requests. Find out how your organisation delivers new solutions and determine where an ITAM checkpoint is required. Ideally, there will be several checkpoints that involve automated workflows between Demand Management and ITAM in order to ensure projects don’t get to the delivery stage without well-defined hardware and software specifications. You don’t want to be giving the project manager the bad news that a software license requirement has been missed and as a result the project will require unbudgeted funding. By placing checkpoints, you ensure that any such issues are uncovered early enough that remediation can take place without affecting project delivery
Your next opportunity is to work with your Programme or Project Office to gain an overview of all initiatives with a hardware or software component. This overview, coupled with your own holistic view of the IT landscape, will enable strategic decision-making and identification of synergies. For example, this will enable the ITAM team to forecast demand, which in turn influences conversations with procurement and vendors.
In terms of informal communication, set up regular meetings with your Architects and Business Analysts. Given the wealth of information the ITAM team possess, the architects and BAs will welcome the ITAM team to the decision-making table. The aim is to understand their motivations, areas of research, and high-level deliverables, and to map those to your knowledge of the IT landscape. ITAM enables Architects and Business Analysts to mitigate risk to their projects up front, thereby increasing the success probability of the project. If your organisation is struggling to solve technical debt, presenting a common view or solution will help gain C-Suite buy-in to resolve those issues.
Working with Business Analysts & Architects enables ITAM teams to help improve the technology capability of their organisations, whilst also meeting their objectives around cost reduction and risk management. Strong relationships with these stakeholders elevates ITAM to the level of strategic technology partner as we enable companies to make well-informed decisions on their technology investments.
Across this series we’ve built relationships by providing value to frontline IT, Security, and now Architects and Business Analysts. These strong relationships place ITAM at the centre of IT Management and Governance. When underpinned by a CMDB – a single, golden view of the technology landscape, ITAM equips the organisation for a future where IT is embedded in the value chain, closer than ever to their customers.