London — Attempts to align IT strategy with an abstract business vision or strategy are doomed to failure according Butler Group, a Hull, England-based IT research and advisory organization. In its latest report, “IT Strategy and Architecture – Creating an Enterprise Model to Support IT Strategic Planning,” Butler Group says that in order to improve competitiveness, organizations must urgently address the growing dislocation between the business requirements and IT deliverables. This, it says, is directly impacting the enterprise’s ability to make quick, accurate decisions, and is causing slow implementation of the IT strategy.

The research firm says the adoption of an end-to-end architectural approach and the development of an enterprise model can help with IT strategy planning and execution. Enterprise architecture is a comprehensive framework used to manage and align an organization's IT assets, people, operations and projects with its operational characteristics. It also defines how information and technology will support the business operations and provide benefits. Butler Group also believes enterprise architecture is an important company asset that must be managed and updated on an ongoing basis to ensure its relevance.

“To successfully adopt enterprise architecture, there has to be complete buy-in across the entire organization with an understanding of the allocation of the roles and responsibilities,” says Mark Blowers, Butler Group enterprise architectures practice director, and co-author of the study. “Technology and business areas within the enterprise must work together to ensure that the architecture keeps in line with the strategic objectives of the company, and adequately reflects the IT services available now and planned for the future.”

The future direction of IT delivery is moving toward shared services. Therefore, when developing an IT strategy, due consideration must be given to the methods and models likely to be deployed that enable the delivery of IT as a service. When considering how IT will be consumed in organizations, the influencing factors include distribution, competence and flexibility. The impact of these different aspects on an IT strategy focuses attention on what is delivered to whom and when. This may be a combination of different delivery mechanisms to suit the organization’s specific requirements—in other words, the belief is that a one-size-fits-all approach will not be appropriate.

Butler Group contends that at the heart of an end-to-end, architectural approach is a common services platform. The combination of standards-based integration, flexible business processes, unified information, composite applications and real-time metrics into a services platform is an extremely strong proposition.

“IT trends play a significant role in the architecting of any organizational infrastructure and, therefore, by implication the IT strategy,” Blowers says. “In the past, trends such as the Internet, client/server and wireless communications have all caused organizations to make step changes that created disruption for the organization during transition. The issue with these previous trends is that many organizations did not plan to deploy the technology initially, but were forced to implement due to prevailing market conditions and the need for organizations to remain competitive.”

In an August 2008 report, Cambridge, Mass.-based Forrester Research Inc. warns that companies can’t just look to the headlines in The Wall Street Journal to figure out what to do to thrive in the “IT everywhere” technology wave. Instead, they must make a review of technology trends a part of the IT department’s annual planning cycle, charter the enterprise architecture group to engage the firm’s innovation network and use business capability maps to assure relevance to the business’ strategies.

To provide maximum flexibility, an IT strategy must be developed that is guided by enterprise architecture, supported by a services-centric approach and has its foundation in a common platform, according to Butler Group. This interlinked approach and use of a layered architecture shields the inherent complexity of the IT environment from users, which, as a consequence, speeds up deployment, lowers the cost of integration and exploits existing investment in IT applications and infrastructure.

Sources: Butler Group, Forrester Research

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