Information technology architecture what is it, why should you care, and how do you do one?
What is it?
Briefly stated, an Information Technology (IT) Architecture is a blueprint that is
developed, implemented, maintained, and used to explain and guide how an organization’s IT
and information management elements work together to efficiently accomplish the mission of the
organization. An IT Architecture addresses the following views: business activities and
processes, data sets and information flows, applications and software, and technology. A proper
Architecture is NOT limited to hardware and software issues. Having an IT Architecture with
specific goals does not mean that an organization must immediately change all of its systems,
Part of an IT Architecture is a plan that addresses how the organization will migrate to the new
targets over time.
Why Should You Care?
Responding to the dictates of good management as well as legislative
requirements, the Department of Commerce requires that each of its Operating Units develop and
implement one or more IT Architecture(s). An Operating Unit may have one IT Architecture that
covers all of its offices and business processes, or a number of IT Architectures based on distinct
business processes within the Operating Unit. Within NOAA, for example, the management of
commercial fisheries could be considered one business process, while the issuance of nautical
charts could be another. The Department may have a few basic requirements that all IT
Architectures must contain, but aside from those, the specific contents of the Architecture are up
to the Operating Unit.
The best reasons for having an IT Architecture are the benefits it brings to your organization, and
all DOC organizations who have implemented one have found it beneficial. Benefits have
included the improved ability to share and efficiently process information, the ability to respond
faster to changes in technology and business needs, and reductions in costs because of economies
of scale and resource sharing. Oversight bodies, such as OMB and GAO, expect agencies to be
developing and implementing Architectures. Failure to develop and implement an IT
Architecture will adversely affect the chances of getting funding for new IT projects or
improvements to current systems, as well as hinder an organization’s ability to meet customer
needs efficiently (e.g., moves to electronic commerce).
How Do You Do an IT Architecture?
There are risks involved in doing an IT Architecture. In
larger organizations it can become a time-consuming and potentially expensive task. To
minimize the risks and maximize the benefits, you need to: have a defined process to follow,
understand that process well, and make sure that the process fits your situation and needs. There
is no one required process - you can find a number of different ones on the Web. They all have
some things in common. When doing an IT Architecture you need to focus on: