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Enterprise Mapping
The Quest For Transparency

by William Laurent, William Laurent, Inc.Friday, January 9, 2009

Like it or not, the grunt work of mapping business processes—to business asset—to human business resource—is the only way to achieve an acceptable degree of corporate governance and glean transparency into your business. In order to reach corporate goals in business continuity (BC), risk management, and corporate governance, the interrelationships and dependencies between people, processes, and infrastructure (physical and logical assets) must be understood in detail. Without this detailed insight into the lowest possible levels of an organization’s mission critical operational landscape, GRC (Governance, Risk, Compliance) centered undertakings will always fall short of providing a respectable return on investment.

Today, business executives are complaining more than ever before that they lack transparency into their organization, yet still too few of them are willing to lead the push for an enterprise mapping exercise. The primary reason is of course expense—doing a low-level discovery and documentation exercise is not a cheap endeavor—even though there are a number of outstanding tools on the market that allow companies to map and document their organization, the endeavor is time consuming and involves inter-departmental resource commitments and multiple skill sets. Unfortunately, many of us still have to educate senior management and leaders of business strategy on the necessity and advantages of a discovery and mapping project.

Therefore it is vital for senior level IT managers and consultants to effectively communicate all of the advantageous outputs of enterprise mapping. Reaching a robust comprehension on what mission-critical business processes rely on what assets—i.e. pieces of IT hardware, physical locations, software applications and service—and knowing how your human capital (employees, customers, vendors, etc.) interacts with both these assets and business processes will provide your organization with intelligence that will positively impact and drive a multitude of strategic objectives such as:

  1. Business Continuity: Once the relationships and dependencies of people, processes, and assets have been discovered, documented, and promulgated throughout the organization, robust plans for disaster recovery and operational continuity can be put in place; BC policy becomes much more real as its logical promises merge with empirical realities.

  1. GRC: Governance, Risk Management, and Compliance practices derive their power from a full transparency into enterprise, which comes about from mapping and discovery. Without mapping, you have a lack of knowledge, and therefore a lack of governance and management. What is not transparent and documented can not be measured and managed. An important subset of GRC will be IT Governance, which seems to be associated with a new and improved methodology every few years, only to see the promises of that methodology fail miserably because the dependency of IT assets—hardware and software, people and locations—is ill understood. Despite endless iterations of process improvement and reengineering, there are still huge gains to be made in the strategic managing and assignment of resources to projects, issues, and agendas that protect operational consistency and integrity at all levels.

  1. Change Management and Configuration Management: Corporate change management continues to be an area where massive improvements can still be made. This is especially true with respect to IT, where the smallest change may impact dozens of systems and large user communities. Regression testing is still a troubled area for most technology managers, simply because they do not understand the web of data and system dependencies—and the problem gets worse every day! 

  1. Data Stewardship: Assuming that the mapping and discovery process can be extended to a lower stratum, i.e. data level, a business will have the proper facilitation for creating a meta data repository, global data dictionary, real semantic lexicon, and get their business rules in order via a rules engine.

  1. Business Intelligence (BI): Once the enterprise is charted and mapped, all types of organizations can better view and understand their portfolio of assets from multiple dimensions (geographic, risk, demographic, etc.) and classifications. Competitive advantage will not be sustained without a dashboard-centered BI approach to vital business functions such as sales, marketing, supply chain management, and beyond. 

  1. Green IT: Only until an enterprise fully appreciates their entire asset portfolio can they understand how to be a good corporate citizen and conduct their business in a sustainable way with minimized environmental footprint.

  1. Business Process Reengineering and Best Practices: ITIL, Six Sigma, and other quality management initiatives must be customized and tailored to the unique business processes, asset classes, and human capital of each corporation. To achieve gains in IT productivity, model driven development (MDD) and template-based engineering methodologies will have to be implemented. The success of their implementation will be greatly enhanced by having a well documented and mapped infrastructure and technology portfolio.

  1. Security: Quite simply, what is not discovered or known can not be secured and protected. In this age of terrorism, hackers, and lawsuits at the drop of a hat, no decisions are being made without an eye towards security.
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