Designing and building solutions is often equated with software development and integration/configuration. However, any solution requires platforming, and in larger organizations the engineering of computing and network platforms capable of supporting the desired software solutions becomes a significant activity in its own right, albeit one less well covered in the popular computing press. The value chain can be seen as having both application and infrastructure tracks, with a hosting “zone of contention” in between them.
Even the established ERP domains are not handled by truly monolithic systems. In manufacturing, the central ERP system is integrated with dedicated shop floor process control systems. SAP (to my knowledge) does not directly control manufacturing machinery - they have a higher order value proposition in integrating such technical operations with supply chain management and providing real-time business performance management.
In the same way, we will have to integrate operational IT element management systems with the cross-functional, process-oriented ERP for IT systems. Is this analogy a stretch?
The compliance vs. IT enablement dichotomy presented is problematic. The core IT value chain process needs to be architected to meet both performance and risk management concerns. The failure of much IT risk management is that it is handled on a "fire-drill" periodic basis, not as a fundamental goal of the core IT process architecture.
Cole's statement "At the end of the day, even if it's strategic, IT is still going to be a cost center..." is arguable. I have repeatedly encountered the work of Henderson and Venkatraman (1993), who have a nuanced model for understanding business/IT relationships (cited favorably in the ITIL Application Management volume and also by Iain Aitken). In their view, IT can be one of:
A good example of IT as a profit or perhaps investment center would be Boeing. My impression is that that company views IT as a strategic part of their value chain - this has been the subject of a few articles I've read recently (sorry, no cites handy).
(Henderson, J. C. and N. Venkatraman (1993). “Strategic Alignment: Leveraging Information Technology for Transforming Organizations.” IBM Systems Journal 32(1) 4-16.)
Groot, Remco; Martin Smits, Halbe Kuipers, 2005 "A Method to Redesign the IS Portfolios in Large Organisations" Proceedings of the 38th Annual Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences (HICSS'05) - Track 8 p. 223a
REALLY good and relevant work. Talks about EAI, interfaces, system complexity, enterprise architecture. The citations alone are a gold mine. We continue to see Dutch thought leadership in this space... and generally, this is the kind of work I think we as enterprise IT practitioners need from our academic counterparts.
Particularly lovely quote:
Only seldom do comprehensive and coherent descriptions and images exist of system complexes and information environments based on which communication with stakeholders can take place. Each group of stakeholders tends to use their own descriptions and images that have been prepared for their own purposes and in their own jargon. This often involves a multitude of binders containing system documentation at various levels. Experience shows that these descriptions, which, in fact, are very important for systems maintenance, are frequently out of date. In addition, it may even be impossible to gain and maintain insight based on these detailed descriptions...