How does having and not having an enterprise architecture approach tend to impact organisations?

Role of IT Within an organisation

Benefits of using an Enterprise Architecture approach when strategising for, or investing in, IT

Many poor investment choices are caused by one factor – a lack of consideration for the broader impact that any plan of action can have on an organisation as a whole, regardless of how well that plan addresses the issue at hand. Employing a Solutions based architecture approach solely, without the overlay of an Enterprise architecture approach, is a sure-fire way to create that very issue.

When Majestic engages with new prospects or clients in the SME space, we see a recurring issue that limits the success of their IT strategy. The advice they have historically received, focuses almost exclusively on the application of technology to address very specific issues, usually the most pressing one at hand. While there is an immediate benefit to an investment that resolves the issue at hand, applying that solution without taking a broader view of potential implications down the track often causes trouble. The most common consequence is a poor technology investment. The challenge is to resist fixing the immediate problem a hand and to step back and take a more holistic view. There are four questions that should always be asked:

  • How does this fit within the scope of what we’re doing overall?
  • If it doesn’t fit, What should we be doing instead?
  • Is this this solution going to get the best possible outcome for our organisation?
  • Where should we be prioritising our IT investment to get the best possible outcome for our organisation?

We discussed what can happen to organisations who fail to apply an Enterprise approach to their IT infrastructure investments. So what happens to those that do? Organisations who make the enterprise architecture approach a focus get great outcomes.

  • They look holistically at their overall plan.
  • They consider their 12 month, two year and five year timelines.

And whatever the case may be, they then cut that into consumable chunks and break it down into projects. They work to understand all the underlying factors and facets of what they’re trying to achieve and then, like pieces of a puzzle, start placing them together in order to achieve a cohesive, well thought out approach. By considering the bigger pieces of the project through planning and analysis, they end up with a better outcome when they eventually invest, receiving a much more significant return on their investment. It’s like the old saying of ‘Measure twice and cut once’ – the same thing applies in a technology context.

 

 

Kevin Lindley, a published educational author, urges the importance of utilizing Enterprise Architecture. When investing in technology, it’s fundamentally important to consider the broader picture of the business’ processes and their goals. Without this broader analysis, the critical aspects will not have been considered, resulting in poor investment choices.

The difference between solutions and enterprise architecture approaches

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Why is an Enterprise architecture approach a better alternative?

When we talk problem solving in IT, there are commonly used approaches – we can look at it from a Solutions Architecture perspective, or an Enterprise Architecture perspective. Do you know the difference between Solution Architecture and Enterprise Architecture? Don’t worry, not many do, but when you’re considering the strategic implications of your IT plan, understanding what these two are and when / how they should be applied is essential.

Early pioneer of enterprise architecture, John Zachman conveys the importance of Enterprise Architecture approach. Failing to take a holistic view of business process in managing technology, organisations can’t keep up with increasingly complex external environments.

In the world of technology (and beyond for that matter), there are two ways to look at resolving problems. The first, and most direct, is a Solutions Architecture approach. The other is an Enterprise Architecture approach. A Solutions Architecture approach moves no further than the immediate rectification of the problem at hand. 

 

On the surface of it, solving the problem at hand seems like a great idea, but what it fails to do is look below the surface. When you have a problem and you only look at how to resolve it, you’re not taking a broader view of how that particular resolution is going to fit within the overall picture of what the organisation needs. As a consequence of that, there is a potential that whilst you might resolve that particular problem, you may then in turn create a series of other adverse effects that you didn’t foresee or even desire. An Enterprise Architecture approach tells us to take a holistic view of what an organisation is all about, what the fabric of the organisation is made of and how the organisation operates. Those operations must be considered in terms of engagement with clients, with the organisations people and the output of work. When this happens, there’s a far greater likelihood that utilising a mix of Enterprise Architecture, coupled with a Solution Architecture approach to a particular problem, is going to yield a far better outcome.

Using a solution-based approach (alternatively called a Solution Architecture approach) to solve IT challenges, can result in unpredictable and undesirable outcomes. By adding an Enterprise Architecture approach into the mix, your organisation can take a holistic view that considers overarching business goals, rather than just particular processes. This allows for better outcomes and less money wasted solving underlying issues. With the average SME spending 6% of total revenue on technology, you want to ensure that you don’t fund solutions that will negatively impact your organisation in the long run.

Joe McKendrick’s article ‘Enterprise architecture is for entrepreneurs too’, reinforces Majestic’s view that Enterprise Architecture isn’t just for large enterprises. When applied with an appropriate economy of scale, it can be used within SMEs to create IT systems that are fully utilised and produce an optimal outcome. It can be argued that it’s even more important to utilise this approach within SMEs than larger corporations, particularly in the Healthcare and NFP sectors that are often substantially underfunded.

What makes Majestic different to other IT MSPs

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How Majestic differs from the way most IT MSPs that service small-to-medium size organisations

One of our primary differences is our understanding that the most critical element in the success of engaging any service is how well that service meets the strategic needs of your organisation.

Peter Cowle’s ‘IT castaway’ concept is prevalent within SME organisations, especially those in the Healthcare or NFP sectors. They have limited resources and either can’t sustain an in-house IT department or can’t sustain one that provides the full range of expertise required to meet their organisation’s needs, especially strategically. Partnering with a managed services provider allows an organisation to strategically achieve their required technology outcomes by taking advantage of the economies of scale that having access to a larger team provides.

One of the most important things to understand about engaging IT services for your organisation is that to simply deliver a good technology product or service is NOT enough. You need to understand how that piece of technology, product, or service is going to fit within the context of your organisation.

  • How is it going to deliver operational effectiveness?
  • How is it representative of your current operational maturity? Or is it something that you’re simply not ready for?
  • Should you even make that investment in the first place, and why?

The difference between the way that Majestic delivers IT services is that we ask these questions, and then work with our clients to help answer them. We’ve taken all our experience of working for many years in the large corporate sector and simplified it down to something that is ideal for an organisation with less people, less roles, and less functions, but has the same kind of capability at a price point that’s consumable for an SME sized business.

I recently discussed Majestic’s Organisation Maturity Model, which assigns a business to a level from 1-5, dependent on the way in which they operate in terms of a number of metrics. Today I want to discuss the other side of that coin, and that’s the measurement quadrants.

Organisational Maturity Model Measurement Quadrants

The four quadrants – Process, Customer, People & Growth, measures how well work systems are resourced, how well operational processes are being followed and how well they are automated across the business. When an organisation focuses on one quadrant to the minimisation, or outright exclusion of the others, we end up with a skewed picture of the organisation’s overall maturity. We often see organisations plough additional funding into an area of the business that’s going well, hoping to magnify its growth, or on the other hand, add resources to address a pain point or fix a ‘squeaky wheel’. Either way, those measures won’t be as effective as they could be and are most likely not the most effective use of those additional resources. When an organisation fails to assess its maturity against each quadrant, needs can be missed and expensive mistakes can be made.

Behind the scenes at Majestic, starting with a bit about CEO Tal Evans

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Majestic CEO Tal Evans taking us behind the scenes and how he grew from an early start to IT in his teens, through a career that has led him to Majestic

At Majestic we pride ourselves on getting to know our clients, not just being another managed services provider. So, it’s only fair that we let you get to know us too. I’ve been in and around the technology industry for over three decades now, starting quite young as a software developer. In fact, I hadn’t even finished school at the time.

By the time I was 18, I got involved in my own business, developing custom software for organisations at a time when there was a lot less available to buy off the shelf. They were really interesting times. I learnt a lot about how technology can improve processes for organisations. Forging forward, with mergers and strategic growth, we built what was about 10 years ago, one of the largest privately held IT service providers in this country. It had about 200 staff and $180 million in annual revenues for the group. It was quite a significant business and I really enjoyed that time. I took a some time out of IT to get involved in manufacturing and distribution of machinery. It was something completely foreign to me the time, but it nevertheless provided me with some really good insight into how some of our clients operate.

But before long, I came to the conclusion that technology was really in my blood and it was time to return to my original industry. Along came Majestic, which provided a great opportunity to re-engage in the technology sector and jump back on board. My time with Majestic has been quite a ride. We’ve re-focused the business in a different area and grown and nurtured the team. It’s been great to watch as they’ve both developed and delighted our clients and as they continue to do so every day.

I sometimes get asked what the biggest lesson is that I’ve learnt during my time in the technology space and I’ve learned so much in 30 years in a rapidly changing industry that it’s been challenging to pick just one.

What has my biggest lesson been in the 30 years I’ve spent in this rapidly evolving industry? I would say that my biggest learning was that nobody uses technology just for itself, in and of itself.

When I was a lot younger, my love of technology led me to believe that everyone else loved it too. How could everybody not see the things that I would see, and want to do the things that I loved doing? It was great! And everybody loves doing great things, right? But in reality, people use technology because it helps them achieve an outcome. It’s a means to an end, helping them to be more agile or helping them deliver something more rapidly / accurately. Technology helps them to do what they do, in a more economically viable fashion or in a timelier fashion.

Ultimately, nobody other than people in technology are really interested in technology. That’s a really important lesson to learn. It’s important for one main reason, and that is that IT has its own language, just like every other industry. Technologists often struggle to communicate ideas or strategy because they talk ‘their language’. They forget that when they’re talking to people who don’t have the same background and knowledge that they do that they need to talk in terms that will be commonly understandable.

Ultimately, what most people want to know about their technology is “If I’m going to make Investment A, how is it going to generate the outcome at I’m after?” And that, in a nutshell, is my most important lesson.

This week I discussed the biggest lesson I’ve learned during my time in IT, but recently I’ve also tackled another lesson that I believe SME’s within the Healthcare and NFP sector really need to learn, and that’s how to achieve a best practice approach to IT Management. To that end, I’ve created a whitepaper that addresses best practice for those industries. It looks not only at what best practice is, but what it looks like, how to achieve it, and why organisations need it.

I encourage you to find out more about best practice approach for your organisation and you can do so here.

The way a typical IT MSP operates

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Majestic's CEO Tal Evans discusses the way a typical IT MSP operates

Satya Nadella expresses the importance of technology in business, both in meeting your organisation’s imperatives, as well as enabling and supporting it as it changes and grows.

Through strategic and considered planning for technology improvements – not only in terms of your operations but importantly change management, your organisation will be better placed to maximize the benefits of technology investments. In turn, longer term benefits can be realised too. 

When a more mature, larger enterprise engages a service provider or partner such as an IT MSP, they have a certain expectation about what their service provider or their partner is going to assist them with. That expectation has come about through years’ worth of their own experience in understanding what they’re buying and what constitutes good value for them.

What I’ve seen in my years within the industry is that this way of working doesn’t really apply in small to medium sized businesses. Whether we’re talking about for example, the healthcare sector or for not-for-profits, this statement holds true.

The majority of the service providers that are delivering services in a small to mid-market have grown out of a technology grassroot. They’re typically owned by an engineer, somebody from a technical background, who woke up one morning and said, “I don’t want to work for Company X. I’m going to go and do all these things for myself.”. They start their business and they’re incredibly good and incredibly passionate about what they do. For the most part they deliver a really good technology outcome for their clients.

But, although they do deliver that great technology outcome, they’re missing something. What they are missing is the bridge between the business and the technology, specifically, where technology investment should be made to deliver the best outcomes for their organisations overall. They don’t really take a holistic view of the business that they’re trying to support, not because they’re bad people, but simply because they’ve just never been there. They’ve never been involved in delivering advisory services, at board level or at an executive level, to organisations that are looking to make an investment in the right areas. That manifests itself in several ways that aren’t necessarily the best use of their client’s money.

Majestic’s Organisational Maturity Model assigns a business state, using the way in which organisations operate in terms of their organisational governance, their management structure and systems, operating processes and integration of IT tools and services used to support the organisation’s growth and development as a metric. An organisation that fails to engage with an MSP that takes a strategic approach to growth will never mature beyond being one of the 75% at level 2 or 3.

‘What’s the difference between a strategy vs a plan (and which do you need)?’, perfectly defines the difference between a strategy and a plan, and why you really can’t have one without the other.

Benefits of embracing new technology

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Benefits that come when Healthcare & NFP organisations embrace new technologies.

Use of technology for monitoring healthcare outcomes is on the rise. We’re increasingly seeing organisations place a greater emphasis on investing in developing different technologies that assist in monitoring various aspects of health, with a definite focus on remote monitoring.

Technology is available now that can facilitate the monitoring of a patient’s clinical signals and responses order to enable a health care provider to remotely receive information and feedback about their wellbeing, and not just from within a healthcare facility. It extends even further when we look at other technologies like products that can monitor an individual in their own home. When used remotely, this technology augments the capabilities of an in-home carer who’s not necessarily with their patient 24 hours a day.

There’s technology that can monitor that individual, build an understanding of their typical habits and pattern of behaviours in the home and then raise an alarm when that person is potentially experiencing an adverse episode.

As our clients adopt some of these types of solutions, it has an immense positive impact on them as an organisation. In addition to improving their quality of care outcomes, we see them able to do more, with less, freeing up resources that they can use to concentrate on delivering higher value or higher impact services.

David Blumenthal’s quote highlights the role of technology as the facilitator for delivering health information. With a well strategised technology infrastructure in place, healthcare professionals have ready access to the information they need to make effective decisions for their patients, faster and more reliably than ever.

As published in their March 2021 Report, The Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety is calling for the universal adoption of digital technology for personal and medical care by mid-2022 and is also recommending further invest in care innovations. Has your organisation adopted any digital technologies to enhance patient care?

The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare’s ‘Digital health’ report states the many benefits and applications of health care technology for individuals and service providers, as well has the health care system overall. The application of technology in the healthcare sector increases the accessibility and effectiveness of medical assistance.

Main challenge #2 Stretching technology beyond it’s lifespan

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Majestic CEO Tal Evans discusses the operational challenges that organisations face in relation to technology

Nicholas Negroponte’s quote emphasises a downside to technology’s rapid pace of improvement – namely, that IT equipment generally has a shorter shelf life than other assets. Although companies will generally like to stretch assets as far as they can, in the long term it’s more cost efficient to implement new technologies within your organization than sticking to outdated technology, particularly when the less tangible issues like wasted time, energy, and resources are factored in.

Organisations, especially those in the healthcare or NFP sectors are commonly working on a tight budget. Every dollar counts and there needs to be an operational justification for every investment made. As a result, there is an innate push to save money and to stretch the usable time of a technology asset, whether it’s a computer, a printer or a server. Unfortunately, although the natural response from an organisation with a tightly constrained budget is to do just that, it creates a cycle that’s potentially very detrimental. As the organisation ceases to invest in a regular refresh cycle of technology, what ends up happening is that older equipment ultimately costs significantly more to maintain. 

Organisations start experiencing issues around the usage of that technology. That then creates flow on issues for the employees who cannot effectively use their time because they’re busy dealing with equipment or software that simply doesn’t work or doesn’t work as well as it should.

From a business process context, if there’s little to no engagement with software service provider in an ongoing contract because it saves money, this results in not receiving regular updates of software, which increases the rate of failure and additionally, creates a challenge when the software cycle and your hardware cycle are not kept in cohesion, creating even more problems. A strategic approach helps organisations avoid these pitfalls, or, if they’ve already fallen, helps them to extricate themselves with the minimum possible consequences.

Research from Spiceworks shows that 52% of laptops are replaced or decommissioned within 4 years or less, with a further 40% in under 6 years. Experience shows us that the failure rate and under-performance in end-user devices in particular, increases significantly after 3 years. Does your organisation have a strategic plan for its ageing technology?

Freshservice’s “Common IT Operations Challenges and how to solve them” looks at some of the biggest challenges facing IT departments today, including difficulties with legacy systems, managing resources and too much data.

Main challenge #1 Knowing where investment should be made

86 percent of employees beleive the digital transformation pace will increase will your company be able to keep up

Majestic CEO Tal Evans discusses challenges with knowing where investment should be made

Main challenge 1Bill Gate’s quote emphasises the point that information technology and business strategy are connected in such a complex manner that they are no longer mutually exclusive.

The main challenges that organisations have in dealing with IT and operations predominantly relate to the point of convergence between the two.

The challenge isn’t in the actual delivery of the technology such as putting a computer on a desk or installing a new server; it’s about understanding where investments should be made in order to achieve the best possible outcomes. It’s important to assess the position and process of an organisation in order to make the right investment in the right areas.

We find that organisations, particularly small and medium organisations, that don’t have a very large technology department and technology officers tend to be quite reactive to their own internal needs. Without being armed with that technical knowledge they often make investments in the wrong areas or at the wrong time, and it ends up costing them.

Research from Flexera shows that 86% of employees in 2021 believe the digital transformation pace will increase. Will your company be able to keep up?

Managed Healthcare Executive’s ‘5 Questions CEOs Should Ask Before Outsourcing IT’ urges the importance of choosing an outsourcing partner that understands the organisation’s goals and future strategy.

The focus in regard to keeping up with technology improvements and updates

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Majestic CEO Tal Evans discusses what organisations should focus on when it comes to keeping up with technology

Brad Strock’s quote emphasises the importance of an organisation’s IT strategy being closely linked to its Business Strategy. They can no longer be considered to be independent of each other.

Many organisations make the mistake of assuming that keeping up with technology immediately means going out and investing in the newest / most powerful hardware. They’re wrong. Blindly investing in the latest and greatest technology is never the best solution. The goal of any organisation should be to first thoroughly assess and understand where their funds can be best utilised.

When we work through this process with a client, our starting point is to ask:
–      What’s more important?
–      What do we want to do first?
–      Which choice is going to provide the biggest possible benefit?

From there, a determination can be made on the most suitable course of action. Sometimes those actions are very simple ones, involving minimal investments in automation that achieve a very significant outcome for an organisation.

Research from Flexera shows that IT outsourcing experienced an across the board increase in 2021 to date, with automation showing a 57% increase. What could the introduction of strategic automation do for your organisation?

CIO Australia’s ‘Anatomy of a strategic plan in the era of digital disruption’ emphasises how critically important it is that organisations have a robust, yet flexible strategic plan for their IT infrastructure.

Challenges of keeping pace with the change of IT

how well do organisations keep pace with IT?

Majestic CEO Tal Evans discusses the various factors that contribute to an organisation’s ability to keep up with the pace of technology advancements.

Peter Drucker’s quote recommends that organisations focus their operations on their field of expertise and outsource the remainder. The benefits of strategic outsourcing are then realised in terms of the quality of outcomes and the flow on effect that additional quality brings, including increased profit and better retention of both staff and clients.

There are many factors that contribute to how well organisations keep pace with the level of change in IT. What we see in the Healthcare and NFP sectors is that their ability to do so varies. It varies with the organisation’s appetite for investing in technology, with their appetite for risk and with the expectations the board has for its executives.

What we see most often is that smaller to medium healthcare providers and NFPs struggle to keep pace. Many assume that struggle is a primarily financially focused one, but that’s not the core problem. The core problem lies with the fact that a healthcare or NFP’s organisation’s core knowledge base is not usually technology focused.

These sectors’ main focus is using information to deliver health services, care services, and/or some kind of social service. They have a lack of understanding around what’s available and what’s possible in the technology space. Educating our clients around what is possible is a big part of what we do.

Research from Deloitte shows 57% of companies claim that outsourcing enables them to focus on core business functions.
Does your organisation have the ability to focus on what’s most important?

CIO’s ‘What is outsourcing? Definitions, Best Practices, Challenges and Advice’ discusses how outsourcing can help organisations excel. This includes enabling organisations to focus on managing core competencies and make targeted, more effective decisions by introducing new strategies to their internal services.