The importance of a good foundation

Implementing a sound corporate IT architecture will see you through the rough times, Julia Vowler meets someone who knows how...

Implementing a sound corporate IT architecture will see you through the rough times, Julia Vowler meets someone who knows how it's done

A dire fate awaits those who build their corporate IT on an unsound foundation, warns Veronique Arnoldi-Dargue, business systems director at the Prudential's Retail Finance Services Division. But the only way to determine whether the foundation of your corporate IT is built on rock or sand is to apply the principles of architecture.

The Prudential is currently implementing a £150m business change programme, so a good foundation for IT is essential. "Systems built vertically, hitched together on nothing more than a point-to-point basis are not good enough. We need a proper architecture so that customer information can flow properly - it's a major piece of work," says Arnoldi-Dargue.

Corporate IT can exist in two states - architected, or non-architected. However, unlike the Prudential, many corporate IT departments are not adopting the architected approach.

"Gartner says only about a third of organisations have, or plan to build, an IT architecture," says Arnoldi-Dargue. The question is, "Do you need to have one?"

She believes that the only acceptable answer is yes.

"IT architecture is becoming ever more important - it's critical to support the IT environment. You need an architecture at all levels," says Arnoldi-Dargue.

But that does not mean only an IT architecture. There must first be a business architecture against which the IT architecture can be mapped.

Arnoldi-Dargue says your business architecture must form a blueprint for your corporate direction, must embrace your core processes and should take account of how the market is moving.

"We had our architecture audited by Gartner - it clarifies our direction and gives a framework for every project or change."

As well as creating a healthy, flexible, plug-and-play IT environment, the architecture also serves as a tool to prioritise resources when user requests come in to IT.

However, convincing business managers of the need for an IT architecture is, she acknowledges, "a difficult and interesting question" - the ones who understand are those who have been burnt.

The biggest barrier to creating an IT architecture is a lack of awareness within the business that one is needed. It is only when the commercial storms start to rage that the lack is revealed - and the need is established beyond doubt.

Fortunately for Arnoldi-Dargue, Prudential has long understood the importance of architecture.

This was last published in April 2000

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