Cisco UK & Ireland Blog

Be the architect of your own security destiny…

June 20, 2017

… while accepting a little help along the way

Home improvements. When embarking on major renovation projects, the ultimate goal is usually to create an aesthetically pleasing living area and ideally, more space; a safe haven that’s both comfortable and comforting.

Sounds idyllic doesn’t it? But as I’ve recently learned, whether it’s a single room refresh or a building renovation, the only way to really make it work is to think ‘architecturally’.

Recently, my wife and I decided it was time to revamp our house, maximising the potential of its internal layout by creating an open-plan kitchen, dining and living area. Delighted with the prospect of having more room and a conducive, practical living space, I took the liberty of developing some initial ideas, focusing on those areas of change.

I enthusiastically drew up a series of detailed pictures and plans, outlining all the various options I could envisage. From extracting walls to moving the entire kitchen, the possibilities were endless.

Down to earth with a bang

Having fine-tuned these illustrations, we visited a home-building trade show for further inspiration and took the opportunity to speak with an architect. However, in the space of a few minutes, he managed to pour cold water over many of my ideas, and suddenly nothing seemed quite as simple any more.

He explained that before carrying out any home improvements you must consider how the entire space will work together as a whole, rather than making changes in isolation.

And his words really resonated – in my own day job as a solution architect, I spend a considerable amount of my working life advising others to always look at the bigger picture and take a holistic approach to their technology architecture. But I was so wrapped in my own zealousness that I’d fallen into the trap of thinking about the project rather than considering the overall ‘architecture’.

I should have known better.

Lessons learned

The good news is that we heeded his advice and assigned an architect, who has helped us look at the ‘whole’ and understand how the entire ground floor of our house works.  And most importantly of all, in doing so, we could concentrate on the outcomes we were trying to achieve, which allowed the architect to develop ideas that will bring them to life.

Inevitably, we didn’t get it right first time, but with some refinement and a little trial and error, we now have great plan for the future; one that doesn’t just look impressive on paper, but one which will work for both our family and the existing building.

Practice what you preach

Going back to my day job, these recent experiences at home have made me more convinced than ever that it always pays to consider the bigger picture, whether you’re developing a property or an IT, security or network infrastructure. In other words:

  • Focusing on only part of the problem domain misses the opportunity for better outcomes. All the various elements are far less likely to work cohesively if they aren’t considered as a whole. In IT terms, this could result in duplicated or incompatible solutions, leading to increased cost and unnecessary complexity.
  • Any decisions must be requirements led. Let the architect bring their experience to bear to help you achieve your objectives. Going in with preconceived notions means you’ve pretty much decided on things from the outset, removing the opportunity for innovation or creative solutions.
  • Your project may be larger and more costly than you’d anticipated. In our case, we’d already completed a minor renovation a couple of years ago, when we moved an interior wall. Now, in the new scheme, the wall is going to be put back exactly where it was in the beginning! Imagine the money we could have saved if we’d thought about the bigger picture.

In the end, we were forced to think long and hard about what we wanted from our home and how wanted it to work for us. And that’s exactly what I would advise anyone planning their IT infrastructure to do to; try to think like an architect.

I realise that for those of us working in IT, thinking architecturally may not come naturally, but this approach will give you greater clarity and eventually lead to a better outcome.

And finally – don’t go it alone. Take advice from the experts.

As for the house – I’ll keep you posted.

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