Enterprise Architecture in practice – Case Study – Business Agility

Consider a fictitious organization, ABC Medical Equipment (ABC-ME) with a not-so-fictitious scenario.

Background

Business Owner, Bob, wants to implement a solution from a vendor to improve clinical trial process. The vendor made a power-point presentation about the solution to Bob and IT Enterprise Architect, Ean, among others. Ean is concerned about the product functionality, quality, and maturity since the vendor could not provide functionality details and customer references during the presentation. Bob has high visibility and political clout in the organization and has funding for the project. He wants to implement this solution right away. What disposition will you provide if you were Bob?

Recommendation

Ean does not feel comfortable approving the solution because of the risks associated (there has been only a power-point presentation which was not very helpful). At the same time he does not want to slow down the business. He wants to do the right thing for ABC-ME but does not want to strain his relationship with Bob either.

Ean has several objectives in this scenario as an Enterprise Architect –

  1. Ean should identify target business and technical architecture that is in scope of this project and validate the business goals/vision that will be realized. Next, opportunities for reuse should be identified at business and technical level. In addition, benefits that are expected from the vendor’s solution should be separated from the benefits that can be achieved from process changes without the solution or with other existing solutions.
  2. The risks that Ean has identified should be quantified, if possible, and used as inputs to perform a cost-benefit analysis. Since detailed functionality of the solution was not proven, it may have to be customized for ABC-ME which might increase the cost of solution and time to realize the business benefits. In addition, the lower quality of the product may mean higher cost of maintenance and lower availability to business.
  3. Sole-sourcing from this vendor is probably a faster process however it may mean that ABC-ME is missing out on opportunity to find a better or less cost solution. Would it make sense to perform a market study for available solutions, or approach an industry expert consultant to see how others have addressed this need, or check with IT research firms like Gartner and Forrester for their opinion on this vendor and solution?

Ean should provide an objective appraisal of the vendor and solution identifying opportunities for the business as well as risks. Ean could go a step further and recommend options to mitigate the risks.

  1. Validate the expected business benefits from this solution and total cost of ownership. Upfront cost paid to vendor is only one part of the total cost. Help the business owner understand cost of implementation, customization, maintenance, infrastructure, integration, training etc.
  2. Suggest checking availability of other similar solutions from other vendors to compare functionality and cost. Provide expected timeline to do so.
  3. Explain the risks of implementing this solution in simple business terms such as availability of the system to research staff, ability to create reports for FDA reporting, functionality for integration with clinical systems, etc.
  4. Recommend options to mitigate the risks. The risks associated with an unproven solution/vendor could be minimized by a proof of concept, commitment from vendor for training and customization, ownership of code if the vendor ceases operations, or in case of a merger or acquisition etc.

By Rohit Arora

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