PODCAST

A Strong, Agile IT Architecture

Today, we present a sponsored podcast discussion on the virtues and paybacks from designing a strong IT architecture.

We’ll examine how such architectural benefits promote business agility as a service while lowering total cost for both the deliverer — and the receiver — of pure application services. This perspective looks at IT architecture with a new twist, not just in terms of developing architectures on-premises, but … for architectures that support the providers of services.

We’ll take a look at how IT architectural best practices at a software-as-a-service (SaaS) provider help not only that provider’s operations. We’ll show how the users, the receivers, of those services can benefit in new ways as well.

By examining the experiences and approaches of Workday, a human capital management (HCM) SaaS provider, we can better understand the benefits of modern IT architecture and gaining new levels of business intelligence (BI), innovative search capabilities, and the ability to extend business processes out to mobile devices.

Here to help provide an in-depth look at how proper architecture allows the SaaS delivery model and business agility to come together, we’re joined by Stan Swete, CTO of Workday.


Listen to the podcast (43:59 minutes).


Dana Gardner: Workday has had an advantage in that you knew what your goals and objectives were when you started your architectural journey. You knew that you were going to go out as a service and you knew that there were some new modern technologies, approaches, and best practices to take advantage of.

That’s a little different from a lot of enterprises that have, in many cases, had decades of IT to adjust and, in a sense, drag along with them. Let’s first hear about the level set. When you started out from green field, what things went through your mind, and how was that refreshing, given that you were starting from scratch?

Stan Swete:

First, it definitely was refreshing to get the opportunity to start from scratch. I’m sure that if you talk to a lot of IT professionals, they’d all want that chance. At Workday, we had that chance and we started our company with a lot of background in what had gone before in terms of architectures to support enterprise resource planning (ERP).

We had that backlog of information, a list of what worked and what didn’t work so well with previous client-server architectures. As you said, just like everyone else, we definitely had an appreciation for all the new developments in technology that make different approaches possible today.

DG: Today, enterprises are faced with a number of challenges. They’re trying to adjust quickly for very dynamic business environments. They have to watch their costs. They’d like to modernize, but there’s a significant time lag between how and when they can take advantage of these modern concepts and when they can’t.

Do SaaS providers like yourself allow them to leapfrog by taking advantage of what you’ve been able to do and then bring those benefits into their business practice?

SS:

We absolutely think it does. You’re right. In IT today, people are in a difficult spot. They have complex environments. The complexity has grown for a variety of reasons. Everyone sees the opportunity to modernize and to improve efficiencies, but how do you do that in the midst of a complex environment that is constraining just how aggressive you can be?

That’s where SaaS can come in. If you’ve got a provider like Workday, or someone who’s able to take a clean approach, there might be the opportunity to take the right portion of a certain set of your applications and, instead of having to deal with the complexity of managing all the multiple instances and different architectures you might have, use the unified SaaS service as a way to achieve some integration and a way to drive against cost. Today, it’s all about cost.

A lot of the discussion around cost has driven IT to look at a variety of dimensions. Just the consolidation of some of the complexities and different instances of architectures that large companies all have is one area where they see opportunity, but they are bound by having to support where they have in place….

DG: What are some of the implications from what we’ve been discussing, perhaps in terms of BI (Business Intelligence), perhaps in terms of extended business processes, or more of this integration agility?

SS:

Let’s focus on the last two. We talked about a lot of the value of leveraging new technology to deliver enterprise applications in a new way and then combining that with doing it from the cloud. That combination is going to profoundly change things going forward.

Today, it’s a new option for enterprises to look at in terms of offloading some of the applications that they’re trying to support in their existing environment. It’s a vehicle for consolidating some of the complexity that you have into a single instance that can be managed globally if you have architected globally, as Workday has done.

As I see that playing out going forward, you’ll see more vendors taking this approach, and you’ll see those vendors partnering. If you think about the combination of modern architectures and cloud-based modern architectures, what will happen when two vendors that have taken that similar approach start to partner in terms of integrated business processing is that the bar will get raised significantly for how tight that integration can become, how well supported it can be, and how it can functionally grow itself forward, without causing high cost and complexity to the consuming enterprise that’s using both sides.

As I look in the future, I think enterprises will see an ecosystem of their major application providers be cloud-based and be more cohesive than a like group of on-premise vendors. Instead of having a collection of different architectures and different vendors all in their data center, what they will see is an integrated service from the set of providers that are integrating with Web services in the cloud.

DG: So, when the cloud model becomes the common denominator, it allows for a lot more, I don’t know, co-existence collaboration but I suppose really just integrated processes.

SS:

It allows for a lot more integrated processes. The key thing with enterprise functionality is you’re never done. The requirements are always changing, because business is always changing. What it allows for us is not only cloud-based integration, but the ability to change that integration without placing additional cost on your customer.

That’s what’s the key is, that you will be able to deliver enhancements to the integration between vendors without getting caught up in how that integration might have been deployed at customer A, versus customer B, versus C. That will allow the same kind of agility we’ve been talking about. That will allow integrated solutions, the cross-vendor integrated solutions, to keep pace with the change of business, which is absolutely not the case today.


Dana Gardner is president and principal analyst at Interarbor Solutions, which tracks trends, delivers forecasts and interprets the competitive landscape of enterprise applications and software infrastructure markets for clients. He also produces BriefingsDirect sponsored podcasts. Disclosure: Workday sponsored this podcast.


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