The talk was reasonably pragmatic discussion of Architecture by a staff member of delta airlines. What inspired me to write this posting was that a slide that depicted "Business Enablements" things, like agility and collaboration. It also depicted lists for Business strategy and IT strategy. This is nothing new but it reminded me I need to lift my eyes from the day to day IT projects and see what my organisation is doing for software development as a whole.
This is timely because its time for my branch to put together a plan for next year. Typically this has been very project-focussed. Of course I also hope to put together a good graphic although I doubt whether I can do as well as the delta-airlines chart.
Each business and each IT department has its projects to achieve some outcome for the business. My focus is on application development projects. Often these projects are part of a bigger business project and commonly involve business process changes and infrastructure changes. Another category of projects do not achieve direct outcomes for the business but allow the business or the IT department to undertake these projects in a more effective manner. For business projects these 'meta-projects' is what was referred to as "business enablements" by the IASA speaker. I will not be using the term further as my spell checker says "enablements" is not a real word, and I tend to agree.
To put these in context see the following table
|Goals/Objectives||Business Goals. Mission, Vision and Strategy||IT Strategy|
|Meta-Projects||Business meta-projects||IT meta-projects|
|Projects||Business projects||IT projects|
There are strong relationships between each cell in the table and its neighbouring cells. The business goals drive the IT strategy and also the business meta-projects. Business meta-projects may drive business projects but also meta-projects may be driven by projects. Neither the meta-project or project is necessarily the driver. This is the same with IT meta-projects and IT projects. IT strategy should drive the IT meta-projects and IT projects.
The IT Meta-Projects that my IT department is engaged in are:
- Enterprise Architecture
- Mobility (Supporting mobile computing devices)
- Business Intelligence (Data Warehouse and Reporting)
- Legacy Transition
- Spatial Systems (Geographic Information Systems)
- Online Project (Customer-facing IT systems)
- Identity Management (Authentication/Privileges/Access Control)
- Service Management (ITIL, Request Management, Change Management)
- Performance Management (Individual Performance)
- Cost Efficiency/Consolidation (ongoing)
- Business Alignment (ongoing)
Some of these meta-projects have explicit planning documents explaining the plan. Others are more just acknowledged as the agreed direction of the IT department. Cost efficiency and business alignment are not specific projects but an ongoing focus of attention as they would be in most IT departments.
Some of these IT meta-projects such as Online Project, Service Management, Performance Management and Costs Efficiency have analogous business meta-projects. Business Alignment parallels the business meta-project of customer alignment.
This list of IT meta-projects has not previously been written out. It is surprisingly long, especially given the much longer list of specific software development projects that are on our books. Ideally each of these meta-projects should be explicitly planned, prioritised and monitored.
Meta-projects provide a foundation to the work an IT department does. They could also be referred to as 'foundation projects' but they are not necessarily just internal projects as they may be programs of projects that directly affect the business user. The meta-projects help build the look and the feel of the IT department. They establish its competitive advantage and its identity. Accordingly, it is important to get these meta-projects right and to provide them with the attention they deserve over the more day to day concerns of getting software out the door.