You’ve invested a large amount of time and money into a great system. But every new feature takes an exponential amount of time longer to complete than the one prior. Your engineering team is strained and stressed. Their fixing bugs that are appearing that are completely unrelated to new work. Therefore your not able to help get new initiates off the ground in a timely fashion. Your business leadership is strained because your customers are unhappy with the lack of progress and updates. While you have steady cashflow, these issues eat away at your bottom line. It’s time to consider an architecture audit.
How did you get here? How do you correct course to make your customers happy, your engineering team effective and agile, and take ensure you never get back into this position?
The best way to get out of this position and not get into it again is a Current Architecture Audit. That’s why the first step of the Enterprise Technology Strategy Plan is to audit your current architecture. Take a deep dive into what works, what doesn’t and how transform your systems into an agile and fluid machine.
Architecture Audit: Software, Application, and Infrastructure Integration Audit
The first step into understanding the complexities of your architecture is to understand how each piece of software plays into each other. On the surface this may seem like a pointless process. Your payment processor connects to your LMS to process payments, right? On the surface it seems simple, but under the covers the software for payment processing doesn’t just connect to your LMS, it also connects to your bank account and software, which then plugs into your account software, all of which are most likely using spreadsheets in some ways. Your LMS is also connected back to your payment processor, along with any tools that you use to automatically post payments. See how two essential, and trivial pieces of your architecture pulled in at least 4 other pieces?
It’s not uncommon for this process to turn out a string diagram that looks like someone threw a pot of spaghetti on the ground. Our goal with this is to understand how each component of your architecture integrates with other components. Knowing this is the foundation to improving your architecture, as it will give you insight into where to begin and how to proceed.
Architecture Audit: Business Process Audit
In it’s simplest form, a business process is a collections of related tasks performed by people or software where a specific sequence of these tasks produces a service or product for your customers. There are three types of business processes. Operational, which is your core business. Management, which oversees the operational processes. And Support, which supports the operational and management processes. As a lender, at the highest level your primary operational business process is to accept an application from a customer and give them a loan. There can be many sub-processes within this, and many workflows as well(which we will cover below).
Our goal with documenting these processes is to assess each business process that defines your business. We want to determine what you do that isn’t being done by your competitors. This helps determine what your primary competitive advantages are. Next, we want to rank and set a value to each of your business processes. We’ve found that this can be tricky because many times “everything is important”. However, setting a rank and value to each of your business processes helps you lay out your architectural road mapping plan.
Architecture Audit: Workflow Audit
We’ve narrowed down your technology infrastructure and business processes. Now it’s time to take a deep dive into your workflows. Your workflows are the movement of data from one process to another. Each workflow can be a stairstep, where each step requires a previous one to be completed, or an expressway, where multiple processes can happen in tandem. Or a combination of both. For example, when a customer misses a payment, you may want to send a letter and call them. The first step of this flow is to check if a payment has been missed. The next two steps are executed in parallel with one another. You want to send them a letter, and also give them a courtesy call. This isn’t just an good example of mixing stairstep and expressway workflows, but also combing system tasks with user tasks.
What we want to start with is shadowing each employee and determining what they do on an average day. From there you link user tasks with system tasks for a complete overview of your various workflows. Just like you ranked business processes, you also want to rank your workflows as well. You want to give priority to tasks that have a direct impact on customer satisfaction and revenue. While auditing accounts is important for error-checking, contacting customers to make payment arrangements should generally rank higher as it impacts customers and revenue. The ranking process isn’t intended to undercut or undervalue any positions. Rather, it should dictate where to focus when going through your technological transformation.
Wrapping It Up
This post is intended to give you a solid foundation for what goes into understanding and evolving your enterprise architecture. Your goal should be to determine if you should be building your own software, or buying. Or perhaps a combination of the two. This post only scratches the surface of auditing your current system. There are many other complexities to take into consideration.
Feel free to reach out to us for a free consultation and to see how Prime Consulting can help you with your digital transformation.