Though there is no standard definition/understanding of IT Landscape, it’s generally used to depict the high-level view of IT/ICT in an organization.
It’s a representation of all IT assets in use by the enterprise. This can best be represented in diagrams, excel sheets and in word documents, with the key being what purpose does it serve to the organization-business.
While enterprise architecture focusses on how a business requirement has been implemented in IT, IT landscape can be imagined to be a high level overview of the system with more focus on ‘what makes the system’.
In the simplest format, IT landscape apex document has the list of all business processes mapped to IT systems. Detailing further, these IT systems are described in terms of hardware assets, software bill of material, interfaces to other IT systems, the technology used, architecture, system owners and other meta data like the age of the system, the cost incurred to build/buy the system(capex), the operational cost to keep it running etc.
Why is it needed?
CIOs/IT Heads of enterprises need to know what IT assets is he being responsible and accountable for. Some of the assets might be owned and some might be on the cloud. He also needs to know how IT/ICT is enabling the business needs/strategy.
Based on information available in IT landscape, informed decisions can be taken Ex – can it serve the changing business requirements, does it need major enhancements to comply with regulatory requirements etc
As part of the yearly budgeting, CIO’s/CFO’s would need to know the cost of maintaining the IT systems, segmented domain wise. With continuous updation of IT Landscape artifacts, deriving this information is easier and reliable.
Applications in an enterprise are not deployed at same time, even though the business might be a green field implementation. Hence the maintenance needs will be differant based on the age of the application.
In case of enterprises acquiring other enterprise, the big picture of IT is needed to re-define business needs and cut down on operational costs.
With the new CIO/IT Head taking charge, it becomes his basic necessity to understand what IT comprises. This information can be used by the new CIO to re-define the governance model, understand the problem areas etc
Who should maintain the IT landscape artifacts?
The landscape artifacts consist of 2 major information perspective – one perspective is on the business process and the other is on the IT systems that enable the business process.
It becomes obvious now that the business process part of it should be owned by the business team and the later should be owned by the architects in the IT team or in larger organizations by the enterprise architecture team.
With the growing list of IT applications to support business, it becomes evident that these IT applications are categorized or segmented based on some perspective. Within the organization itself, the perspectives can differ. Simplistically some categorize IT applications as customer facing, back-office, partner facing systems etc.
No guidelines exist in categorizing the IT applications. However a meaningful approach should be adopted as this might result it affecting the governance structure. A sample categorization of all IT assets can be as below -
- Business Support Systems
- Portals and Mobile Apps (Customer Facing)
- Support Systems (Employee facing)
- Analytics for Business Analysts
Business Support Systems are considered the core part of delivering business services to customers or partners. For example order capturing, product catalog, order approval and provisioning, customer complaint management, partner order processing etc Some of these might not be customer facing but will form as back-end systems for customer facing applications. For example order management ERP can be front-ended by web portals or mobile applications.
Portals and Mobile Apps (Customer Facing) It’s obvious that the customers of your enterprise will be using some applications exposed by you for mutual benefit. For Ex – portals to pay their monthly bills, mobile application to transact with your enterprise, partner gateways for your business partners to interact with your systems etc These applications carry the second highest priority after Business Support Systems as these directly affect the revenue of the company.
Infrastructure - All the business applications exposed to customers, partners and employees need hardware, network connectivity and storage to enable business continuity. This segment consolidates all the support infrastructure needed to run the enterprise.
Support systems (employee facing) - payroll, internal MIS, attendance management, performance management can be segmented in this category. Authentication systems used by business support systems can also be categorized in this.
Analytics for Business Analysts - The most important tool for business analysts to derive insights from the data collected from Business Support systems. These are used to analyse trends derive insights and then make changes to service offerings. These tools are used internally by employees but are categorized seperatly as they are closely linked to business data.
Categorization of applications can be done in multiple ways -
- Grouping by functions (as shown above)
- Grouping by platforms
- Grouping by application end users (Retailers, Dealers, Business users, partners, customers, mobile-enabled customers, finance (revenue and margins) etc
- Grouping by business owners – retail banking, corporate banking, partner management, channels etc
The information of all IT assets can be captured in a simple spreadsheet with various columns depicting the meta information of the system. In a more advanced format, a web application with reports capability, can exist to capture and depict this data. The most important thing is to keep this repository updated.
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