Architecture’s Business Stakeholder

Whenever an IT architecture discussion begins, all the participants line up on different sides.

There are, of course, those who just look around puzzled, wondering "What architecture?" — or, more frequently, "Why architecture?"

But the those who call themselves "architects" quickly take a side:

  • Architecture is how all the machines are deployed, and what kind of network links the machines together
  • Architecture is separating machines by function: database server, web server, security server, application server, middle tier distributor
  • Architecture is how the vendor’s product is distributed, scaled, and sped up

I go, first, to the more fundamental question — the "technology-free" question — of "What are we trying to accomplish, and why?"

It’s the "Why?" that creates the greatest silence in a roomful of techies.

  • Why do we have a web site?
  • Why are we building a data warehouse?
  • Why are we creating a real-time EAI system?
  • Why is the data secured? Why isn’t it?

Unless the answer to "Why?" is "because we’re a technology research firm and this is what we study", then I would expect the people who write the check — the Business people — to offer up the only relevant answers. And they are rarely technical.

What would the business stakeholder say about the choice between EAI and real-time data warehouse?

How does the business stakeholder feel about Open Source?

As it turns out, even these geek debates have a business implication. It’s a business problem specifically because, at some point, one solution will cost more than the other. That’s dollars. And dollars are a business problem.

  • What is the cost of Open Source? How does that compare against a proprietary software suite, like Oracle, Microsoft or IBM?
  • What is the cost of a vendor-specific software solution? What is the "lost opportunity" cost of being unable to change from one vendor to another without a multi-million dollar rewrite of a working system?

There is — almost — always a business interest. All technical questions reduce, ultimately, to a business question, because they always come down to costs — and costs are measured in business dollars.



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