It is obvious that proper company management implies an optimum management of resources: people, time, money, raw material, etc. One of the means used for example by the big car manufacturers for that purpose is to avoid re-designing each new vehicle from scratch. So they design car parts, frame, engine, … which will be reused and common to several models of the range and sometimes to models of other brands.
The economy of scale is substantial. The higher the proportion of common parts, the bigger the savings. Without mentioning other important advantages that this approach provides like an increased flexibility and a reduced time to market.
The underlying concept of this strategy is to make the design of vehicles the more generic possible while still addressing the customer’s specific needs transparently. This approach can of course be transposed and applied to the design of IT solutions. But in companies producing IT solutions (IT companies), who is in charge of such strategy ?
We must take a look at the way companies are structured to answer that question. IT companies are often organized in two main “layers”: the “business” with a business domains expertise and the “IT” with a technological expertise. But according to this structure and logic, none of the business and IT areas seems to be responsible for the strategy we refer to because it stands in between; after the business needs identification/analysis and before the pure technical/technological design. This is the domain of the “functional strategy”.
A functional strategy lies in the scope of responsibility of specific roles which are neither specialists of a particular business domain nor technology experts. These “functional” roles act transversally across the big projects of the company; they have a global view of what could be reused across the various business solutions, they are an efficient interface between the business and IT and they have acquired these two sensitivities through a solid multidisciplinary professional experience.
In companies mainly structured in a business and IT layers, the functional roles are often not officially foreseen, consequently they are inevitably and implicitly endorsed by business or IT people, without governance, coordination or control and thus with potentially inadequate consequences.
The analysis of the organizational chart of a company is symptomatic of the level of awareness it has of the importance of a functional strategy in addition to a business and an IT one. Lacking functional roles may impact the global company “metabolism” with sometimes serious implications on its overall capability to render effectively business value to its customers.