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What is IT Transformation? Really? March 27, 2009

Posted by wrivkin in Enterprise Architecture & Business Transformation.
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This post is a deliberately delayed reaction to an article with a nearly identical title  in CIO Insight Magazine: What is IT Transformation, Really? It was deliberately delayed, because I wanted to see the reaction to this paper from the Enterprise Architect community, first and foremost. I will explain why later on.

First, couple of quotations from the paper:

Check out the title again, and you’ll see one gigantic IT buzzword. Ask 10 CIOs or IT executives what “transformation” really means, and you’re bound to get 10 different answers. Does transforming your corporate IT operation mean morphing from a utility/cost center to a value creator? Reshaping your architecture or application mix? Or, perhaps, moving from a centralized model to a decentralized one, or vice versa?

I’ve heard IT leaders say “yes” to all of the above, all while using the same term–“transformation”–to describe the change.”

The author interviews several high-level practitioners and analysts’ about IT transformation, who provide absolutely different opinions on what this transformation is and what it is necessary for.

The article itself and all 12 responses to it make very interesting reading. They list almost all things IT Transformation IS NOT. We see here the same unfortunate situation as in many other methodology-level Enterprise IT-related discussions: due to lack of precise knowledge people offer their opinions, or in other words, guesses to explain a concept or a phenomenon. There are many who say that this precise knowledge on the matter is unachievable. We would respectfully disagree.

Let us take a closer look at IT Transformation. Why would anybody try to change (transform) something? Apparently, to improve its functioning. What is the main goal of IT functioning? It is to effectively and efficiently support and enhance Enterprise’s Business Model (BM). So the goal of IT Transformation is the improving of the effectiveness and efficiency of IT’s support for EBM!

Now, how this goal can be achieved? I hope it is obvious now that the modern Enterprise IT has reached Architectural degree of complexity. So, this transformation must be achieved by architectural means. Do we have the corresponding discipline that offers methods and approaches for such a transformation? Surprisingly for the author and the participants of the aforementioned discussion, yes we do! It calls Enterprise Architecture (EA)!

I am far from suggesting that those distinguished specialists have never heard of EA. However, the fact that they never connected EA and IT Transformation is very sad. Unfortunately, it shows the level of understanding of these critical issues even by high-level IT specialists. This is why we are where we are.

What we have here is a failure to communicate” – concludes the author. Yes, correct but not because of “poor communication skills”. No, it is because of a lack of any knowledge about what to say without “being perceived as mush-mouthed jargonizers”. Well said Brian, even I could have not said better!