Most companies reach a point in their lives when they realize that they aren't entirely sure what IT resources they have, how they're deployed, what direction they're headed, or whether they're ready for the next big shift from the business. Some companies visit this point multiple times, either in response to shifts in the company or business landscape or as a result of letting the environment devolve back into it's primordial beginnings.
Today I'm offering up two books with tools and ideas to help us analyze our environments, align them with the business, and build frameworks or architectures for our environment that enable our business, rather than hold them back. The first book provides a basic framework, while the second communicates the importance of architecture to executive and non-IT personnel.
IT Architecture Toolkit
Jane A. Carbone
This is a self-declared 'Practical Guide' to enterprise architecture, aiming to help us get the work done without the depth of knowledge and practice that a full-time, experienced enterprise architect would bring to the table. There is little filler in this book, going straight from why architecture is important to the company into methods to analyze the current situation and defining a path forward. By the end of the process we have not only a vision and defined goal, but also projects, methods of estimating, metrics, assistance getting buy-in, and so on.
The practices and methods described in the book will be familiar to those with more background in business or enterprise architecture, but are just as approachable for those that have not had the time to delve into these subjects. Even if you aren't ready for a full blown architectural initiative, the ideas presented in many of the chapters are just as useful on a day-to-day IT management basis and provide good supplemental material.
Enterprise Architecture as Strategy
Jeanne W. Ross, Peter Weill, David C. Robertson
Probably the hardest part of any IT initiative is explaining to executives and managers why we need to do it. Enterprise Architecture as Strategy focuses on that communication, on explaining to a non-IT executive what the value is of IT alignment with the business and a process for achieving that alignment between IT and the business. The advantage this book brings is not depth of detail into Enterprise Architecture models or practices, but the business viewpoint of the value of Enterprise Architecture and the language and methods it uses to communicate that language. This is not a for-technologists-by-technologists book, but rather closer to a for-the-business-by-the-business voice, and that difference in perspective is especially useful.
Love or hate the term "IT/Business Alignment", there are still thousands of IT groups and businesses that are working towards disparate goals (or no goals at all). Books like the two above, as well as many others in the EA space, can help us get a better picture of where we are, build a direction for where we should be going, improve the position and agility of our business, and provide a number of tools that are usable even in day-to-day operation.