IT and Leading with Architecture

By Fred Spalanzani, VP, IT Enterprise Architecture & Strategy at NetApp


Throughout my career I have watched as IT organizations made the classic mistake of trying to solve new business initiatives solely with technology and without understanding the true drivers behind the business need and requirements. This approach usually results in chaos, rework, inefficiency, and frustration.


At NetApp I lead the Enterprise Architecture (EA) & Strategy team who drive the IT strategy and direction as it relates to overall IT planning, architecture and technologies deployed and supported globally for NetApp. According to Gartner, EA is a discipline for proactively and holistically leading enterprise responses to disruptive forces by identifying and analyzing the execution of change toward the desired business vision and outcomes.


To help achieve better collaboration, we have a forum called the Enterprise Architecture Executive Council (EAEC). The Council is comprised of senior decision makers from both business and the IT. We have adopted an approach that aligns technology with the company business direction using a capability model as the starting point for guidance for investment and project decision making. This helps to translates business objectives into a realizable business and IT portfolio.


The job of the EAEC is to define the portfolio of technology investments, promote cross-functional buy-in, and raise awareness of project interdependencies, risks, and trade-offs. The Council then ranks and prioritizes a short list of important projects.


When we started one of the first challenges the EAEC faced was to understand how the various projects being requested fit together and how to prioritize one over the other. Conversations were not always easy. Business needs could be addressed in an unlimited way number of ways. A staggering number of technologies were available to solve the business problems. The Council needed a master roadmap to make more informed choices on which direction to take.


birds_360.pngWe proposed development of a target state enterprise-wide business architecture that focused on critical long-term capabilities. The architecture gave the EAEC a bird’s eye view of its current and future business capabilities and is the basis for proposed investments and initiatives, as well as the roadmap to get between today and the future. This enterprise architecture facilitates collaboration between IT and business to achieve long-term results.


In the short term, we wanted to foster daily collaboration with the business units. We assigned business relationship managers (BRMs) to maintain engagement and relationships with our stakeholders. The BRMs are aligned to nine key service areas, including: Idea-to-Offering, Offering-to-Quote, Quote-to-Cash, Forecast-to-Delivery, Install-to-Support, Human Capital Development Management, Financial Resource Management, End User Services, and Infrastructure Services.


Both the EAEC roadmap and BRM team have been an integral part of fostering business/IT collaboration. They ensure customer-centric alignment across functional units and improve the strategic planning of our enterprise systems architecture. By "Leading with Architecture", we can more quickly adopt and execute new ideas and support critical business initiatives.


The NetApp-on-NetApp blog series features advice from subject matter experts from NetApp IT who share their real-world experiences using NetApp’s industry-leading storage solutions to support business goals. Want to view learn more about the program? Visit