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Usually IT architecture is a topic for conversations from one IT craftsman with another IT craftsman with a complex jargon. In my consultancy practice I had to explain IT architecture to senior management on several occasions. In particular the consequences of their decisions. In a number of cases I used the picture below.

Please consider this picture from the top to the bottom.arch rol van de gebruiker

Every person in an organisation uses IT in the role(s) or function(s) that person has. For everybody the keyboard and mouse are the means to use the IT. When we take a closer look at what happens in the technology behind this keyboard and mouse we can distinguish 3 area's  that use completely different technology:

1. the 'Personal toolset' that everybody can use to their own convenience. E.g. MS Office, E-mail, WEB browsers, etc.

2. the 'Workgroup tools' that a person can use as a member of a particular team to exchange documents, create a common result, register events, etc. E.g. Wiki's, Lotus Notes, MS Office 365, Huddle, etc. The difference with the first type is in the need to agree in the team on how to use the toolset.

3. the 'Business Applications' that a person uses in a particular role in the businessprocess(es) has. E.g. ERP systems like SAP, MS Dynamics, etc. but also the homebrew software of the organization. The difference with the previous type of technology is not only the need to agree on how the application needs to be used but also that this agreement needs to be made before development and implementation of the application. A business application will always check on this 'agreed usage'.

There are several products in the marketplace that combine the capabilities of those 3 types. However, this makes no difference for decision making in IT.

What is so important about distinguishing between the 3 type of technologies?
When je want to solve a problem, in many cases the solution can be found in all three types of technologies. However making a choice has consequences.

When you want a quick solution, you will tend to chose the technology of the personal toolset and a skillful end-user that will help you out. E.g.: 'make me a spreadsheet for monthly reporting of the salesfigures'. How such a spreadsheet is populated and what the primary source of the data is, usually is a later concern. Result:  endless discussion on the quality of the information provided by the spreadsheet.

The choice of the appropriate type of technology is finding a balance between:
  • speed in availabilty of new functionality
  • reliability, timeliness, accuracy and robuustheid van de informatie die wordt geleverd
arch rol van de gebruiker 2On the left you find an example of the use of this picture including the popular 'multilayer architecture' distinctions.

When the IT craftsmen define a number of 'decision making principles per technology type in this picture, the choice of the proper technology becomes a lot easier.