As more organizations move to cloud-based applications and connect the Internet of things (IoT) to how they do work, comprehensive technology architecture planning is becoming more essential, according to a new report from CompTIA, a technology association based in Downers Grove, Ill.
Experts say such planning is especially important for HR.
However, only 34 percent of companies say they're building IT architecture strategies, according to a survey of 500 U.S. firms for CompTIA's Planning a Modern IT Architecture report.
IT architecture is the practice of creating and providing a practical technology strategy.
Most respondents said there is a definite need for improved planning across their IT architecture—hardware, software development, data and security.
"As companies embrace new collaboration tools, AI [artificial intelligence] systems, cloud-based HR, mobile work tools and video-sharing systems, it's imperative to have an integrated IT architecture," said Josh Bersin, principal and founder of Bersin by Deloitte, in an interview with SHRM Online. "Employees want an integrated set of tools that work together, and businesses want consistent data management that helps manage security, authentication and single sign-on to make these systems useful and safe."
The advantages are myriad.
"Organizations see real benefits from better planning, such as improved collaboration between IT and business teams and a greater ability to evaluate current technologies against long-term objectives and to prioritize investments," said Seth Robinson, senior director of technology analysis at CompTIA.
For chief information officers, architectural planning presents another opportunity to strengthen ties between business divisions and the IT department.
"By connecting the construction of IT architecture to overall corporate objectives, both groups will be better informed about the options available and the tradeoffs involved when selecting devices, applications or operational models," Robinson said.
The roadblocks to broad architectural planning are not minor.
- 4 in 10 companies identify the lack of a budget for heavy investment in new architecture.
- One-third of firms say they don't have adequate knowledge of emerging technologies and new trends to plan to incorporate them in how employees work.
Enterprise architecture planning has generally been confined to large companies because of time and cost. But the general concept—aligning business objectives with technical infrastructure—is one that many companies can benefit from, CompTIA's research points out.
Robinson cited two examples: cloud computing and the IoT.
"The top challenge for companies as they utilize cloud solutions is integration with existing systems, showing that in-depth planning is needed to maximize the benefits of a cloud-first strategy," he said, adding that if cloud computing is changing the way that the IT infrastructure is built, the IoT is expanding the scale and scope of that infrastructure significantly.
"The primary characteristics of IoT are connectivity and intelligence," Robinson explained. "Physical objects that had no digital capability are being outfitted with sensors, CPUs [central processing units] and networking connections. This will provide significant new opportunities for automation, data capture and data analysis, but it will also present major new challenges to IT operations."
Among the report's findings:
- Companies are less focused on long-term architectural planning. About one-third (34 percent) of respondents are currently building IT architecture strategies beyond a 12-month window.
- Architectural planning is linked with digital transformation. Another one-third (36 percent) of respondents report that architectural planning allows for better collaboration between IT and business units.
- Cloud capabilities and the IoT are increasingly becoming drivers for architectural planning. Almost two-thirds (61 percent) of respondents report that the IoT allows them to extend technology into broader organizational objectives.