It’s a bit like Chess…

“What is?” I hear you ask.

“IT Strategy and Architecture” is my reply.

As a natural introvert I sometimes wonder how on earth I ended up in Consultancy, especially when I am faced with the force of nature that is Fordyce and Bell, and the wonderful AAB team that they have built around them. I have been fortunate enough to be able to join them on part of the journey in more recent times, supporting them with the Strategic IT needs of their clients and figuring out how an Enterprise Architectural approach can help IT support an Organisation’s needs.

So where does Chess come into this…

I mentioned that I am introvert and as such I can spend a fair bit of time reading. My book list is always expanding (an actual hand-written list in a proper paper notebook – I am no luddite, but there’s something nice about pen and paper, although that will be for another discussion!) and I recently got around to reading A Chess Story by Stefan Zweig. The story focuses on the complexity of the game, the myriad of paths and outcomes that a game can take, and the imagination required to play it to a successful outcome. It also addresses the psychological challenge and pitfalls that can affect people, but I will pass over this for the purposes of this blog.

The novella struck me for the way it illustrated the game, but it also got me thinking about how much the work I and AAB do for clients can be viewed in a similar light to the strategic nature of The Royal Game. There is a huge amount of emphasis at present on Agile development and delivery; focusing on minimum viable product (MVP); if we’re going to fail, fail fast, reset and move forward; continuous iteration and continuous deployment. I am an advocate of such an approach, however the desire to move quickly can often side-line a strategic approach to technology and development, which in turn just stores up the problems for later (anyone who has worked on an IT Transformation Programme, dealing with Legacy IT systems will have seen the historical results of this approach).

In recent times the traditional answer to the technology strategy and development has been the adoption of Enterprise Architecture (EA) in an organisation, focusing on the Business Capabilities (Business Architecture) to truly understand what it does and to be able to clearly articulate its requirements. This then allows the supporting Technology and Data Architectures to be defined, and lastly the Infrastructure Architecture that supports the entire organisation. As you may guess, to do this in a holistic manner can be a huge, time-consuming and resource intensive task for an organisation. There is a need to ensure that a “right-size” approach is adopted, however the start point is always a clear articulation of the Organisations Strategy and its overall objectives.

In my view the two approaches (Agile and EA) are not mutually exclusive, and I have been fortunate enough to successfully test this through my work with AAB in large complex organisations and their polar-opposite small businesses. In the novella, the game starts with a team of amateurs playing and losing against a Grand Master, but their success changes when they are joined by a player that understands the strategies of past masters’ games.

Working in partnership with AAB, guiding clients to articulate the strategic objectives of their organisations has been key to the success of the engagements. Focusing clients on what is actually important, eliciting their true business and organisational requirements, and guiding them through that strategic journey in an iterative manner has shown how good guidance and an ability to combine approaches can realise success. It’s all a bit like a game of Chess.

56a Consulting focuses on technology centric Strategy and Architecture, Organisational Transformation, and Solutions Delivery. Led by Pete McLaughlin with over 20 years' experience across Financial Services, IT, Energy, Higher Education, Manufacturing and Media Sectors, we help AAB’s clients address their IT and Technology challenges.

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