An IT project can succeed only if the business and the rest of the IT organisation is ready. Cliff Saran reports from the Gartner Symposium in Cannes on how one organisation has approached an IT transformational change
An enterprise architecture (EA) is often used to help a business codify its structure, the business processes and how it operates. Through a well-defined EA, companies have the opportunity to identify areas of inefficiency. From an IT perspective, the EA provides a blueprint for simplifying IT.
Syngenta, formed in 2000 by the merger of Novartis and AstraZeneca's agribusinesses, has developed an enterprise architecture to help the company simplify and lower the cost of IT and support key applications such as SAP and Microsoft.
When the company was formed, there were two separate IT groups - one technically focused and one strategically focused, and the business wanted one face to the customer. Peter Hungerford, an enterprise architect in the strategy and architecture group of Syngenta, told delegates at this week's Gartner Symposium in Cannes that the IS team had to take control of IT spending. "We introduced portfolio management and standard governance," he said.
Syngenta selected strategic suppliers for networks, infrastructure and applications. "We tried to take a bigger-picture architecture approach," said Hungerford. There were three sigificant projects:
- Decommission applications
- Simplify SAP
- Simplify Microsoft
The aim of the enterprise architecture was, first, to get the technical aspects right, then move higher up into the business - a waterfall cascading up the organisation. However, Hungerford conceded that such a strategy would work only as fast as the business could change.
"As an architect, you have to time your architecture to when it is ready for the business," he said.
Syngenta found an open door through the technical architecture. But other elements higher up the business, like the information architecture, proved a big challenge for the EA team, because the business was not ready.
Selling components of the EA were easier if the project team could illustrate genuine business benefit. So, by starting out on standardising the desktop, Hungerford was able to convince the business that it would benefit in the same way from server standardisation.
On the SAP project, he said one of the areas the team had struggled with was in dealing with what the business wanted compared with what it actually needed.
Through the EA, Syngenta has migrated to what Hungerford describes as "an assetless datacentre", using a provider that charges the company for processing and storage on a usage basis. However, he warns that one of the mistakes of the approach Syngenta took was that it lost in-house experts. "You need in-house skills to understand what the suppliers propose, and better understand what they are telling us," he said.
According to Gartner research director Julie Short, a key criterion in the success of the Syngenta EA project was that the team took extra time to use communication skills to get the right answer from the business. She said there was an intricate link between the maturity of the EA team and the rest of the IS organisation. In other words, an EA cannot succeed unless the rest of IS is ready.
Enterprise architecture best practices
- You can only move as fast as the business
- Deliver a project where the business can easily understand the benefits
- Make sure you retain technical staff if you outsource, to make sense of what the suppliers propose
- An enterprise architecture can only work if IT has reached the right level of maturity
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