Using marketing research to build IT architecture

Right now as you are reading this, an astute product marketing manager is using a classical seven-step research methodology to discover your needs and how best to meet those needs with his products. You can use this same seven-step approach to identify your company's needs and shape an appropriate IT architecture.

The product manager starts with customer analysis - determining who the customers are and what are their needs. Similarly, the IT architect must thoroughly understand the company's business requirements and how technology can help meet them.

The second step is market analysis. The product manager determine what might happen during the production and marketing life cycle. IT architects also need to do a market analysis to understand the life cycles of the technologies being researched.

Questions about technology maturity, market share and customer base need to be asked.

The third step of the marketing plan is competitive analysis. The product manager needs to understand the competitors and their products. IT architects also need to review the pros and cons of the available solutions.

Next, the product manager analyses the distribution channels to identify which one to use for the product. The IT architect also needs to analyse the distribution channels and see which is the best vendor. Questions regarding partnerships, warehouse locations, global availability, lead times for shipping and inventory need to be asked.

The product manager now determines the product marketing mix - how best to market the product. At this stage the IT architect needs to determine the product integration mix - how best to integrate the product into the environment. Areas such as implementation time, downtime risks, training and support needs, and space and migration requirements need to be analysed.

The product manager now performs an economic analysis to identify projected profits, as well as fixed, variable and break-even costs. The IT architect also needs to do an economic analysis to determine the costs for equipment, training, installation and support. Total cost of ownership with appropriate depreciation needs to be analysed.

Now the product manager does the most important step - review and revise. IT architects also need to review and revise to ensure the recommended technology meets the business needs and is supportable, fiscally responsible and cost-effective.

By following the same disciplined methodology of a product manager, you can ensure that the appropriate technologies, vendors and products are selected to meet your company's business needs.

- Chuck Yoke is an IS manager

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