What is IT architecture?

Author: Alexey Sakhan

The success of practically any contemporary company depends on Information Technology, their flexibility and compliance with the goals and objectives of the business. So how to synchronize business and IT? Can the existing IT-systems meet business requirements? How much do our IT systems meet the requirements of Information Security? What technologies should focus on while constructing new IT systems and changing existing ones? What about technical infrastructure (network, server, other equipment)? How effectively does it used, is it not obsolete and manage to cope with current and planned loads? I think that these questions are familiar to many leaders.

To help the company’s management, in decision-making by given issues, can IT architecture development. What is this and why do we need it?

IT-strategy defines concretely general strategy of the company from IT perspective and answers to the following key questions of implementing and using Information Technology process:

  • Automation of complexity
  • If overall automation is not assumed, so determination of activity directions, business processes or units that will be automated
  • Order of automation, timing of separate stages
  • Selection of used products, systems, platforms
  • Application of custom developments
  • Used integration procedures
  • Methods of projects realization (use of third-party companies services, outsourcing, the fulfillment of works by the forces of our own unit, etc.)
  • Methods of IT-services support (traditional, SLA)

IT architecture can be defined by the term “system organization implemented in its components, their mutual relations with each other, environment and principles that determine its design and development.” Therefore, developed IT architecture should answer the following questions:

  • What information / data are critical for company business and the way they are organized;
  • What applications will support the business;
  • Can these applications effectively interact between themselves and with the external systems of partners and suppliers;
  • Do the used technologies meet requirements of business process support;
  • Are the information security systems sufficiently;
  • Colleagues can obtain timely access to necessary data from any place;
  • What standards should be used of system components development and procurement;
  • To what extent is contemporary technical infrastructure (server, network, other equipment in the system) and as effectively it is used.

So, IT strategy determines the purpose and the ways for achieving goal and IT architecture which exactly determines the goal achieving.

The problem of IT-architecture construction is studied more than 20 years. Many methodologies of IT-architecture construction are developed, however none of them is considered ideal corresponding to all needs. The most simple for the use is the methodology, called the “Structure of John Zachman”. The appearance of “John Zachman Structures” is presented in Table 1. Formalized IT architecture description of organizations can be used in different formats. Use such format description which would ensure the easy way of guiding the development of all IT aspects is important for organization.

Table 1

PARTICIPANTS Data Functions Network People Time Motivation RESULT
Business Leaders Planner List of important concepts and objects List of main business processes Geographical location Key organizations Significant events Business goals and strategies Influence sphere
Owner, manager Conceptual data model Business process model Logistics scheme Workflow model Master plan of implementation Business plan Business model
IT Managers and Developers IT architect Logistics  data model Application architecture Model of distributed architecture User interface architecture Process structure Roles and Models of business rule System model
Designer Physical Data Model Project System Technological architecture Presentation architecture Management structure Business rules description Technological (physical) model
Developer Description of data structure Software code Network architecture Security architecture Timings determination Business logic implementation Realization details

According to the estimations of different analytical agencies, the presence of urgent and documented architecture allows to decrease capital and operating expenditures for IT to 20-30% due to the reduction of works duplicating, optimizing of systems composition, reducing the integration cost, timing realization of introduction  projects.

It must be noted that information technology becoming more complexly every year. They require huge financial, human and temporary resources, in this case not always achieving the expected effect.

New positive aspects are replaced by new risks, which require additional control by top management, also external and internal audit.

In this regard, IT audit is conducted in companies in order to operational obtaining systematized and adequate information for IT assessment, IT management decision making, IT strategy develop / update and to construct a flexible and reliable architecture.

Each company is necessary to reflect not only about new technologies introduction, but also about improvement of basic elements. Having a stable and strong foundation in IT field, you can plan business development and not afraid of unprofitable investments.

Alexey Sakhan

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