Essential Considerations of a Digital Strategy
October 22, 2015
Not too long ago, a global pharmaceutical corporation suffered a significant impact to their business as a result of an unrecoverable data loss. The resident corporate IT teams found themselves in an urgent scramble to remedy the situation. Unfortunately this reactive scenario continues to play itself out (perhaps) thousands of times per year affecting a great number of organizations. All too often IT teams find themselves inadequately prepared and or equipped to remedy the situation resulting in a higher impact to their internal and external customers.
The problem with a reactive approach is that it doesn’t address the deeper problem: the need for proactive risk management and enterprise architecture. If companies fail to plan appropriately, issues which could have been avoided through better design, planning and purchases can arise later. And if organizations don’t take into account core business objectives when designing an enterprise digital strategy, then they can find themselves scrambling to realign their design after it has been implemented.
Companies that handle this most effectively map out and understand pain points before they start spending money on technology solutions. When companies don’t, they often have to go back to the drawing board to invest even more capital and organizational resources to fix it.
Investing the time, money and resources to plan and implement a long-term, strategic digital management approach can enable companies to stop being so reactive. The benefits of reduced reactivity can be significant. Here’s some food for thought from a fellow Enterprise Architect:
Align IT with Business Objectives
The top challenges many organizations face with regard to their digital strategies are how to align them to their short or long term business objectives. IT organizations need to understand the business objectives in order to determine which technology solutions are right for the job. Otherwise, they can end up treating the wrong symptoms and not the true cause. Problems will inevitably keep re-emerging, which can perpetuate a reactive culture instead of a proactive solution.
The overall digital strategy should be designed to complement and service the current and future of both capital and operational expenditures. Corporate leadership should indeed consider the digital strategy from the lens of positive or negative impacts to the business. Instead, many organizations make the mistake of looking at their digital strategy just from an infrastructure perspective. Or, that the unplanned and or reactively purchased technology infrastructures should somehow dictate digital strategy.
Organizations have to examine the intersection and requirements of digital strategy and business objectives. On the business side, consider the following:
- What are the business challenges?
- What is the business trying to accomplish?
- Where are the areas of risk and exposure?
- Does the technology spend align to satisfy the tactical or strategic vision?
Then, and only then, should organizations look at the strategy from the infrastructure perspective of what tools are best suited to meet those challenges and how many professionals are required to help staff the resident IT team.
Data Classification for the Long Term
To be proactive with data classification, it’s important to develop a strategy that allows for validation and enhancement.
How much can it help? Proper use of the correct data classifications can significantly assist in the existing information lifecycle management process, save data center storage resources, increase performance and utilization, reduce expenses and administration overhead.
To put data classification on the right track, start by including all parties. Introduce an inclusive investigator and broker of facts (aka Enterprise Architect) that has executive mandate. Is there an open dialogue about data classification between IT staff, architects, application owners and management (or other stakeholders)? This should build from the initial efforts towards aligning with and understanding the core business objectives. This can be a fairly involved process, but the time spent upfront can lead to a uniform strategic direction and ultimately reduce problems down the road.
In contrast, a more basic data classification approach may speed up the process at the start, but it could cost you down the road when small errors become exponentially magnified as volumes of corporate data aggressively grows.
Avoiding the Quick Fix Quandary
It can be very frustrating if you get sidetracked from long-term strategic goals by having to continuously fix problems every day as the result of a reactive culture.
The persistent issues that IT deals with on a daily basis can be mitigated with a proactive approach. Addressing possible issues by mapping out a digital management strategy helps reduces the likelihood of individual problems while, at the same time, establishing a proactive method for dealing with future issues. Failure to plan can result in the continuous use of time and resources to combat simple, yet repetitive problems.
There is a secondary issue that can stem from a reactive approach. It can put an organization in the position of having to act quickly and allowing technologies that haven’t been sufficiently tested to enter into their production.
The risk with applying new and cutting edge quick fixes to problems is that they often take on a life of their own over the long term. While they may solve the immediate problem, they can also create unforeseen complications down the line.
The answer is to take the time to address the issues fully before they manifest themselves. It’s well advised to stop and do a comprehensive evaluation of the possible solutions before introducing new technologies into the picture.
It’s All About Managing Risk
In uncertain economic times, managing risk is more important than ever. Today, it can be much harder to bounce back from a significant business interruption or unexpected losses. In addition, the typical cost of avoiding such threats is dramatically less than the cost of recovering from them.
A critical part of such planning lies in recognizing that your organization’s risk-preparedness must live up to recovery objectives – or risk a significant gap in business continuity that could lead to lost revenue, lost resources and lost reputation. Or much worse.
It’s important to create an information security and business continuity/disaster recovery agenda with an eye towards compliance, auditability, recovery objectives and partner assurance. Apply industry standards and frameworks to help assess how your company’s risk profile looks today, where it should progress to tomorrow, and what steps should be taken to get there.
Effective risk management means being proactive. It begins at the policy and strategy level to better assess, design, implement and manage your business response to unplanned events – in other words, the application of the Enterprise Architecture doctrine.
The Future is Digital
Your organization’s operations are fueled by information. The demands of information storage and data management are skyrocketing. The challenges include optimizing your IT investments while getting the best performance and business value out of your production or public cloud infrastructure today – all while preparing for growth tomorrow.
Intelligent data management is increasingly focused on information policies and the value of data as established by business, compliance and security requirements. As such, a world-class production technology infrastructure must anticipate a vast array of needs – well-managed growth, tiered storage, reduction of redundant data, networked systems, consolidation and virtualization, data classification, data privacy, off premises mobility and agility, rapid accessibility and thorough reporting capabilities, just to name a few.
In order to face these challenges head on, it’s important to be proactive. By doing so, production technology infrastructures and the people who care for them will more closely align with the business value of data, business capacity requirements, and capital & operating expenditure considerations. Enterprise Architects are as such uniquely equipped to introduce and establish a healthy and proactive design doctrine to help fully align the digital strategy to the business strategy. And that will help keep your enterprise boat sailing through the toughest seas.