What do we mean when we say “strategy and architecture?”

In general, strategy means a plan of action for achieving a specific business objective, e.g., use social media to reach more customers, or deploy smart-meters to expand pricing options for electricity customers. In general, architecture is a high-level overview of information technology components showing how the main pieces fit together to help achieve a specific business objective.

Strategy and Architecture go together…project success depends on how well the two are matched at the conceptual level in the very beginning. As a project progresses, architecture will become more detailed to reflect the real-world and the trade-offs that account for it. The larger the project, the more time, money, and people will be required to create the final detailed design. However, the conceptual design at the outset must match the business strategy perfectly and will be “the gold standard” against which the final design is measured.

As a consulting professional I’ve worked on projects as large as $500M and as small as $5K. From the conceptual to the detailed. The principles of strategy and architecture are valid regardless of size. On large-scale projects the work quickly devolves to a people-management exercise where there are architects for every conceivable dimension: network, server, data, security, integration, etc. Well-funded, large-scale projects have the luxury of large-scale staffing but small-scale projects have the luxury of manageability. Each has its fine points.

In Big Consulting there is a vast domain of complicated methodology addressing the problem of “aligning IT with business.” The focus is large enterprises…and it’s a never-ending story. As an independent consultant I work at the conceptual level. This is where architecture meets business strategy and where it can actually be understood by business people.