The best laid plans

"The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry, and leave us nothing but grief and pain instead of promised joy." Poet Robert Burns' words reflect many IT managers' sentiments regarding projects that started strong but ended miserably.

From over-budget enterprise CRM implementations to costly distributed Web infrastructures to highly touted network technologies such as ATM, IT has had its share of best laid plans that went awry. The problem is not that any of the technologies were overrated. Rather, the problem is that the planning process for these technologies was anything but best laid. Planning is not a strong suit of many IT organizations.

During the 1990s, there was a glimmer of hope for strategic architectural planning. Many organizations created in-house architecture groups that focused on integrated application, system and network planning. These groups were tasked with ensuring that the networks being deployed facilitated the applications being developed, which in turn were analyzed to ensure the correct systems were being deployed. The entire process was business-driven, ensuring the overall IT architecture met business goals.

After the dotcom bubble burst in the early 2000s, companies downsized IT and disbanded architecture groups. The focus was on point solutions that met short-term operational needs - which in itself wasn't bad. Unfortunately, many IT managers associated point solutions with "no planning needed", so the IT planning process diminished drastically.

IT organizations make plans but what's missing is the crucial planning that occurs between strategic goals and project-implementation plans. This is the area I call the "IT blueprint". Strategic planning states where IT is going. The IT blueprints details how IT gets there and how everything fits together.

This level of planning is crucial to the success of new technologies.

An IT blueprint is like the blueprint of a house. An architect might have a wonderful concept, and each subcontractor might have his individual detailed plans for plumbing, electricity and carpentry, but without a blueprint showing how everything fits together, the house probably will never materialize.

An IT infrastructure built without proper planning - whether from mice or men - is doomed to become another plan gone awry.

Chuck Yoke is director of business solutions engineering for a corporate network

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