Liz Herbert, VP and Principal Analyst at Forrester, recently shared an interesting thought. Liz said: “Your tech stack is a corporate asset that requires governance and refinement.” While we generally agree with this assessment, we also believe that the companies need to focus less on tech stack refinement and more on tech stack optimization – that is, making sure that the tech stack is composed of the best possible components and operates at the highest possible level.
Tech stack optimization can be thought of as ensuring the stack delivers the most business value. Enterprise architects know that this begins with aligning technical solutions with company objectives (we’ll talk about this below).
But if tech stack optimization stops there, EAs are missing an opportunity to provide even greater business value. To make the most of that opportunity, EAs need to continuously seek out ways to cut costs, boost efficiencies, eliminate gaps, and power more agile operating strategies (both on the front and back ends).
EAs focused on achieving this level of optimization need to carve out a plan and get smart about their approach. That’s what this article is all about.
In the sections that follow, we’ll walk through 6 smart ways EAs can achieve tech stack optimization to deliver impactful results.
- Creating a thorough, accurate inventory of your IT landscape and visually mapping it are essential to any potential optimization.
- EAs should be the champions of leaner tech stacks, making the case for eliminating IT waste when needed.
- A strong partnership between EA and DevOps teams supports a balanced agile strategy.
- More than 90% of organizations have technical debt, but less than half have a strategy in place to manage it.
- Tech stack optimization requires a data-driven culture across the organization.
Map Your IT Landscape
It’s impossible to optimize your tech stack without first taking complete (and even painstaking) stock of what you already have in place. It’s likely you’ve done this to some extent already. But have you done it thoroughly enough – including all connections, dependencies, interfaces, and IT components? More importantly, have you done it with optimization specifically top of mind? If not, your work is far from complete.
We've already mentioned starting with a business capabilities map. In order to optimize your tech stack, however, you're going to need to capture a lot more information:
- Who owns what across the tech stack
- What business capabilities each component supports
- The flow of dependencies across solutions
- Life-cycle stage of each solution
- The Pace Layer of each application
- The pathways of data through the stack
Once you’ve collected this information, make it visual. Create a comprehensive IT landscape map showing the connections, highlighting redundancies, and suggesting opportunities for consolidation.
In the same article referenced above, Herbert recommends that you “...dismantle siloes and short-term structures that have outlived their purpose and eliminate other redundant efforts that aren’t generating the right business outcomes and experiences.”
In other words: Get serious about shrinking the tech stack.
EAs are in the perfect position to recognize opportunities for eliminating IT waste. Unfortunately, they are not always in a position to make a final call about what gets phased out. Collaborate with IT leaders and other business stakeholder at your company and (confidently) make the case for getting rid of unneeded items.
And always be ready to make the business case for doing so. Your go-to business outcomes will be: lowering costs, increasing efficiency, and, naturally, improving the customer experience.
Look for Consolidation Opportunities
This is particularly relevant for tech stack optimization in the process of mergers and acquisitions, but it really applies across the board. Inevitably, EAs find redundancies (unintentional or not) that could be eliminated with consolidation. Find these opportunities and create roadmaps for retiring and replacing what you don't need.
Consolidation can be thought of through the lens of technical debt. While some technical debt may be intentional, all technical debt creates added complexity that gets in the way of organizational agility. Recent research found that while 94% of organizations recognize the impact of technical debt digital transformation, less than half have a strategy in place to manage it.
Looking for ways to eliminate technical debt by consolidating solutions and letting go of those that are highly customized or out of support offers a clear path to delivering measurable business value.
Align with DevOps
In general, the relationship between EA and DevOps can be best understood from the standpoint of an overall trend for every company to be a software companies. In other words, as software development becomes a critical business capability, EA has to support DevOps in its efforts to continuously improve software engineering efficiency.
EA can align with DevOps in two complementary ways. First, the development tech stack must be reflected in the overall organizational tech stack. On this front, collaboration with head of development and software architects are key.
Second, EA can use their tools and expertise to help dev teams manage their one tech landscape, particularly when it comes to microservices. A microservice catalog can serve in this case as both an essential tool for DevOps, particularly when it promotes reuse, and a natural extns
Prioritize Business Value
In the context of tech stack optimization, we can think of business value in two ways:
- What purpose does this tool serve for the organization?
- How does it ultimately drive value for the customer?
If the answer to either of these questions is unclear, it’s time to meet with the primary user(s) and determine why (or if) it’s important to keep around. EAs can help reduce reluctance to let go of old tools by approaching conversations prepared with alternative solutions.
Most of the time, when stakeholders recognize their interests are being prioritized, they’re more open to change.
In the end, enterprise architects can only make tech stacks as powerful as the data will allow them. Comprehensive data collection requires contributions from across the organization. An overarching, data-driven culture facilitates this collection by making it part of the organization's standard operating procedure.
EAs help build this culture and encourage data sharing by:
- Providing visuals (i.e. landscape maps, business capability models, etc.) to demonstrate how individual contributions fit into the larger picture
- Making it easy for people to contribute (provide easy-to-use interfaces, take advantage natural trigger points for data sharing, etc.)
- Have direct conversation when needed to get laggards on board
Optimize Your Tech Stack with the Right Platform
LeanIX’s Enterprise Architecture Management (EAM) helps EA teams leverage technology, make decisions, and manage change with an outcome-driven approach. Our flexible, best-practice data model provides a solid foundation for meeting all future business challenges.
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