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4. How to Align Your Tech with Your Business

Businesses can struggle if their tech doesn't support their activities. To sync tech with business needs, a savvy team should assess and align the company's technology with its strengths and requirements. The goal is to select tech that's current yet adaptable, , and supports collaboration across all company levels for growth and efficiency.
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4. How to Align Your Tech with Your Business

Sometimes, businesses find it hard to match their tech with what they do. This happens when they're not clear about:

  1. The tech they have.
  2. What their business is about,
  3. How to join these two.

First, you need to know all about the existing systems (software applications, tools, and supporting infrastructure) that your business uses. It's easy to lose track of these over time.

Second, you need a good understanding of what your business does. This means knowing all about what you sell, the services you provide, and how you deal with customers. Also, what makes your business special compared to others, and why do customers come to you?

Describing what a business does can be hard because it involves many activities and people, and things are always changing. Also, different parts of the business can affect each other in various ways making it difficult for everyone to understand it the same way or to use the same words to describe the business.

Third, to make sure your tech supports your business well, you need to pick the right tech that matches your needs and goals. This means thinking about what tech will help the most and how it fits into what you already do.

The Human Body as a Way to Think of a Business

A useful way to think about a business is to compare it with living things like the human body. Just like a business, the human body has different levels that work together:

  1. atomic Level: Atoms and molecules are like the tiniest parts of a machine.
  2. Cell Level: Cells are like the tiny workers of the body.
  3. Tissue Level: Tissues are groups of cells that do the same job, like a team.
  4. Organ Level: Organs are like different departments in a company.
  5. System Level: Systems are like big projects that need different departments to work together.
  6. Whole Person Level: This is the person, with all the projects and departments inside them working to keep them going.
  7. People Together Level: This is about families, friends, and how everyone works together in society.
  8. Nature Level: This is the world around us and how we fit into it.

Like in a business, each level has new stuff that you don't see at the lower levels. For example, just one tiny cell can't think, but a whole bunch of them in the brain can. This way of looking at the body helps doctors and others understand how to keep people healthy.

Understanding Your Business in Layers

When you look at your business using this “layer's idea”, along with what the business can do, who works there, how they do things, and what tech they use, you start to get the full picture of how your business creates value and earns money. Each layer adds to the business model:

  1. Individuals: Everyone's job matters to the business's success.
  2. Teams: Teams figure out how to make or sell things better.
  3. Departments: Different parts of the business make sure their work adds up to something valuable.
  4. The Whole Business: The business plan is the big story of how the company meets customer needs and makes money.
  5. Business Partners: Working with other companies or groups can help do things better or offer more.

By putting these layers together, you can see how everything works as one. This helps businesses stay ahead, change when they need to, and keep being successful over time. It's all about making sure every piece of the business works towards the main goals.

Your Business Model and Business Capabilities

When you look closely at your organization, considering the people, processes, technologies and capabilities you start to see the full picture of how it works. This deep dive can reveal where improvements are needed and where your organization's strengths lie. It's a comprehensive way to see all the parts of your organization and how it all fits together to meet your goals, bring in money, serve its customers, and stand out from the competition.

Let's explore how your business ties into each layer:

  1. At the Individual Level
    • People: Consider the unique skills, history, and drive of each employee. Their growth is essential.
    • Capability: Pay attention to each person's skills and their potential to learn and grow
    • Process: Look at how each person gets things done day to day.
    • Technology: Think about the tools and programs each person uses to work smart.
    • Business Model: Understand how each job helps your whole company succeed. Every task, whether it's coming up with new ideas, talking to customers, or making sure things run smoothly, plays a part in the big picture.
  2. At the Team or Group Level
    • People: Notice how team members work together and communicate.
    • Capability: Focus on what the team can do together, like solving problems and creating new things.
    • Process: Consider the steps teams take to share ideas and make choices.
    • Technology: Use technology that helps teams to work together, like project tools and chat apps.
    • Business Model: Teams polish parts of the business model, like making products, planning marketing, or helping customers. Working together, they often come up with better ways to do things.
  3. At the Departmental or Divisional Level
    • People: Look at the leaders and how teams are put together in each department.
    • Capability: Gather all the special knowledge and skills the department has.
    • Process: Understand how each department gets its work done.
    • Technology: Use technology made just for certain jobs, like marketing or managing people.
    • Business Model: Make sure what each department does fits into the company's overall plan, creating value and making customers happy.
  4. At the Organizational Level
    • People: Align everyone with your company's mission and goals.
    • Capability: Build on what your company as a whole can do, like coming up with new ideas, carrying out plans, and adapting to changes.
    • Process: Map out how your entire company operates, including how different parts work together.
    • Technology: Integrate all the systems that let your company work as one, like planning resources and communicating across the company.
    • Business Model: This is where your company's strategy comes to life, defining how to attract and serve customers, make money, and stay on course.
  5. At the Inter-organizational Network Level
    • People: Build connections with people outside your company, like partners and industry leaders.
    • Capability: Strengthen what your company can do through partnerships and networks.
    • Process: Manage how your company works with others.
    • Technology: Use technology to work smoothly with other companies, like managing suppliers and customer relationships.
    • Business Model: Work with others to do even more for customers. This can involve teaming up with other companies or being part of bigger projects that use outside resources.

Understanding your company across these levels helps spot chances to get better, find new ways to innovate, and keep everything running in harmony towards the main goals.

Matching Tech with Your Business at Every Layer

To make sure your technology is helping your business at every level, you need to plan carefully. You should understand the tech you have and how your business works. Think about how to blend them in the best way.

You've got to make sure the tech fits what you need right now and what you'll need in the future. Keep checking and updating your tech so it grows with your business and makes each part better.

Here's a way to match tech with every part of your business:

  1. For Each Person
    • Make it Personal: Give people tech that they can make their own, so they can do their jobs better.
    • Teach and Help: Train everyone to use the tech well. If they have trouble, help them fix it fast.
    • Pick Easy Tools: Choose tech that's easy to use and helps with everyday work.
  2. For Teams
    • Work Together Online: Use online tools that help teams talk and work together easily.
    • Manage Projects: Use software to keep track of who's doing what and when things should be done.
    • Share Information: Make sure teams can get to and share information they all need.
  3. For Departments
    • Custom Tech: Find tech that fits exactly what each department needs.
    • Connect Departments: Make it easy for different departments to share data and work together smoothly.
    • Watch Performance: Use tech to see how each department is doing.
  4. For the Whole Organization
    • Plan Resources: Use bigger systems that help you manage everything the business does.
    • Smart Decisions: Use data and smart tools to make good choices and understand the business better.
    • Keep Data Safe: Ensure your business's information is protected well.
  5. For Working with Others
    • Manage Suppliers: Use software that helps you work better with the companies that supply you.
    • Understand Customers: Use systems that help you know your customers well and keep that information easy to find for everyone in the business.

Creating an Architecture Roadmap

To improve your technology architecture for immediate benefits and future readiness, you execute these steps in three main phases: Foundation, Adapt, and Evolve.

Such a roadmap offers a structured approach by starting with a solid foundation of understanding and planning, adapting through updates and security improvements, and evolving by integrating, innovating, and making better use of data.

Phase 1: Architecture Foundation

  • Understand Your Business: Grasp what your company excels at and its growth needs. Develop clear business models and capability maps.
  • Check Your Tech: Inventory your current technology to understand what you have and how it supports your business. Keep this inventory updated.
  • Plan Your Tech Future: Define what your company needs from technology and identify critical technologies that will drive the most significant impact. Develop a strategic plan for your key systems and departments. Select scalable technologies and utilize cloud services for greater flexibility.
  • Make Tech Rules: Establish data and system standards for consistency and compatibility.
  • Start an Architecture Team: Form a team with expertise in both technology and business to lead your tech strategy and ensure alignment with business goals.

Phase 2: Architecture Adaptation

  • Update Old Tech: Upgrade or replace outdated technologies with sustainable, modern solutions. Stay current with the latest software updates for enhanced security.
  • Streamline Your Tech: Reduce complexity by eliminating redundant technologies and consolidating systems. Focus on updating essential technologies.
  • Make Your Tech More Secure: Strengthen tech security, educate your teams on security best practices, conduct regular risk assessments, and establish a robust incident response plan.

Phase 3: Architecture Evolution

  • Link Everything Together: Ensure seamless data integration across your systems for efficient operations and decision-making.
  • Change and Improve: Commit to continuous improvement of technology and processes across departments, shifting towards more agile and scalable cloud-based solutions.
  • Use Data Smarter: Enhance your data analytics capabilities for deeper insights and informed decision-making.
  • Try New Things: Invest in emerging technologies like AI to drive efficiency and leverage data more effectively, keeping your business at the forefront of innovation.

Splitting the architecture journey into steps like Foundation, Adapt, and Evolve makes it easier to handle. This way, your teams won't feel overwhelmed trying to do too much at once. You can make sure every tech change helps your business goals by starting with a solid base. It also means you use your investment and time wisely, without spreading them too thin. Breaking it down lets you adjust your plan as things change or as you learn from earlier steps. This approach also reduces mistakes because you can catch problems early. It's easier for your team, too, as they get time to learn and get used to new things gradually. So, doing it step by step is a smarter way to update your architecture, keeping it in line with what your business needs now and in the future.

What to read next

5. How to create a Business Capability Model

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