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From Project Inception to Solution Architecture: A Comprehensive Guide for Successful IT Initiatives



Introduction To Solution Architecture Creation

When embarking on an IT project, the path to success begins with thorough investigation and continuous discovery. Building a successful solution requires a deep understanding of all aspects of the project, from its initiation to the creation of a robust architecture. By delving into the intricacies of the project, identifying key requirements, and continuously uncovering new insights, businesses can pave the way for effective solution development. In this article, we will explore the crucial stages of IT project initiation and solution architecture creation, emphasizing the importance of thorough investigation and ongoing discoveries in achieving optimal outcomes. Join us as we unravel the secrets to successful IT project implementation and unlock the power of comprehensive solution creation.


The Discovery: Process For Best-Fit Solution Architecture Design

The success of any project depends on having a clear understanding of what needs to be accomplished and how it aligns with the overall goals and objectives of the organization. This is where the initial discovery phase comes in, which involves a comprehensive analysis of the current state of affairs and identifying the gaps that need to be filled.

During the initial discovery phase, the Discovery team works closely with stakeholders to determine the project's purpose, scope, and requirements. This includes gathering and analyzing data, identifying key performance indicators, and assessing risks and challenges. By doing so, the Discovery Team can create a roadmap for the project, which serves as a guide for the development process.

However, the success of the project is not just about completing the initial discovery phase. IT projects are complex and can often be challenging to manage, with many moving parts and variables that can impact outcomes. Therefore, having a north star - a clear and measurable objective that guides decision-making throughout the project - is crucial.

The north star helps the team stay focused on the end goal, even as they navigate the complexities of the project. It also enables them to make informed decisions, prioritize tasks, and allocate resources effectively. By doing so, the team can ensure that the project is moving in the right direction and that the final product meets the organization's goals and objectives.

In summary, the initial discovery phase and the north star are critical components of any IT project. The initial discovery phase provides a comprehensive analysis of the current state of affairs and a roadmap for the project, while the north star serves as a clear and measurable objective that guides decision-making throughout the project. By leveraging these two components, IT teams can ensure that their projects are successful, meet their objectives, and deliver value to the organization.

A North Star for the project discovery outcomes should be specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound (SMART). It should also be aligned with the organization's mission, vision, and values.

The Discovery result objectives for the project are:

  • Identify key stakeholders and their requirements for the project by the end of the discovery phase.

  • Develop a comprehensive roadmap for the project by the end of the discovery phase, which includes timelines, milestones, and deliverables.

  • Identify potential risks and challenges that may impact the project's success and develop strategies to mitigate them by the end of the discovery phase.

  • Determine the project's feasibility, including its costs, benefits, and ROI, by the end of the discovery phase.

  • Establish a clear and detailed scope for the project by the end of the discovery phase.

By having a North Star objective for IT project discovery outcomes, the IT team can stay focused on the end goal, prioritize tasks, and allocate resources effectively. This ensures that the discovery phase successfully provides a comprehensive analysis of the current state of affairs and a roadmap for the project, which serves as a guide for the development process.


The Phases Of The Discovery Process

Introduction

In today's rapidly evolving digital landscape, organizations rely heavily on Information Technology (IT) projects to enhance operational efficiency, drive innovation, and achieve their strategic goals. However, embarking on an IT project without a clear understanding of its requirements, goals, and potential solutions can lead to costly mistakes and failed initiatives.


To ensure success and mitigate risks, IT project discovery encompasses a crucial process that enables businesses to explore, analyze, and determine the optimal path for their technological endeavors. This comprehensive journey can be divided into three key phases: Understanding and Assessing, Developing a Strategic Roadmap, and Identifying the Necessary Solutions. Each phase plays a pivotal role in guiding organizations toward their desired destination and maximizing the potential benefits of their IT investments.


Phase 1: Understand and Assess

The first phase of IT project discovery revolves around gaining a deep understanding of the organization's current state, challenges, and opportunities. This involves conducting a comprehensive assessment of existing systems, processes, and infrastructure to identify pain points and areas for improvement. By engaging with stakeholders, collecting data, and conducting thorough analyses, businesses can pinpoint the specific needs and requirements that their IT project should address. This phase sets the foundation for informed decision-making and enables organizations to align their IT initiatives with their overall strategic objectives.


Below is explained the initial phase of the discovery process in detail.


Understanding and Assessment Phase in IT Project Discovery: Laying the Foundation for Success

Embarking on a successful IT project requires a comprehensive understanding of an organization's current state, challenges, and opportunities. The Understanding and Assessment phase, the initial step in the IT project discovery process, plays a crucial role in laying the foundation for well-informed decision-making and strategic planning. By engaging with stakeholders, identifying business goals, assessing pain points, and defining the desired result state, organizations can establish a clear roadmap toward achieving their objectives. In this article, we delve into the key components of the Understanding and Assessment phase, highlighting the importance of stakeholder engagement, goal identification, pain point analysis, and establishing a north star for the IT project.


All stakeholders identification and RACI matrix creation:

The first step in the Understanding and Assessment phase is identifying all the stakeholders involved in the IT project. Stakeholders can include executives, department heads, end-users, IT teams, and external partners. Each stakeholder brings unique perspectives, requirements, and expertise that contribute to the success of the project. Once identified, a RACI matrix is created, outlining the roles and responsibilities of each stakeholder. This matrix helps establish clear lines of communication, accountability, and decision-making throughout the project lifecycle.


Identify the business domain and main goals:

To set the stage for a successful IT project, it is essential to identify the business domain and define the main goals. Understanding the specific industry or sector in which the organization operates provides context and insights into the challenges and opportunities that exist. By aligning IT initiatives with the organization's overarching business goals, the IT project can contribute directly to the overall success and growth of the company. This step ensures that the IT project is in line with the strategic direction of the organization, enabling a targeted and focused approach.

The goals defined and agreed upon during the discovery phase and especially during this operation should be defined as SMART goals. This means that each goal should be:

  • Specific

  • Measurable

  • Attainable

  • Relevant

  • Time-bounded


Identify the pain points for the current state:

To effectively address existing challenges and inefficiencies, organizations must identify the pain points associated with their current state. This involves conducting thorough assessments of existing systems, processes, and workflows. By engaging with stakeholders and conducting interviews, surveys, or workshops, organizations can gather valuable insights into the pain points experienced by employees, customers, and other key stakeholders. These pain points can range from outdated technology infrastructure to cumbersome manual processes, data inconsistencies, or lack of integration between systems. Identifying and understanding these pain points provides a clear understanding of the areas that require improvement and sets the stage for targeted solutions.


Define and validate the desired result state and north star:

Once the pain points have been identified, organizations must define and validate the desired result state or the north star. This entails envisioning the ideal future state that the IT project aims to achieve. By engaging with stakeholders and aligning their expectations, organizations can define specific outcomes, key performance indicators (KPIs), and success metrics. This step ensures that all stakeholders are on the same page regarding the project's objectives and desired outcomes. Validating the desired result state helps manage expectations and provides a benchmark against which the project's success can be measured.


Outcomes of the Assessment Phase:

The Assessment Phase in IT project discovery aims to provide a comprehensive understanding of the organization's current state, challenges, and opportunities. Through meticulous stakeholder engagement, goal identification, pain point analysis, and the establishment of a north star, this phase sets the stage for informed decision-making and strategic planning. The outcomes of the Assessment Phase are as follows:


  1. Clear Stakeholder Identification and RACI Matrix: The Assessment Phase ensures the identification of all relevant stakeholders involved in the IT project. By establishing clear roles, responsibilities, and communication channels through a RACI matrix, the project team can foster effective collaboration and accountability throughout the project.

  2. Defined Business Domain and Main Goals: By identifying the specific business domain in which the organization operates and defining the main goals, the Assessment Phase aligns the IT project with the strategic direction of the organization. This outcome ensures that the project contributes directly to the overall success and growth of the company.

  3. Identified Pain Points for Current State: Thorough assessment and analysis of existing systems, processes, and workflows enable the identification of pain points. By understanding the challenges and inefficiencies in the current state, the Assessment Phase provides a clear roadmap for addressing and improving these areas in the subsequent phases of the IT project.

  4. Defined and Validated Desired Result State and North Star: The Assessment Phase allows for the definition and validation of the desired result state or the north star. By engaging with stakeholders and aligning their expectations, specific outcomes, key performance indicators (KPIs), and success metrics are established. This outcome ensures that all stakeholders have a shared vision of the project's objectives and desired outcomes, serving as a benchmark for measuring success.


By achieving these outcomes during the Assessment Phase, organizations are well-positioned to move forward with confidence into the subsequent phases of the IT project. The clarity gained through stakeholder engagement, goal identification, pain point analysis, and the establishment of a north star enables organizations to make informed decisions and develop a strategic roadmap for their IT project, setting the stage for success.


Conclusion for the Understand and Assessment Phase:

The Understanding and Assessment phase is a crucial first step in the IT project discovery process. By engaging with stakeholders, identifying business goals, assessing pain points, and defining the desired result state, organizations lay the groundwork for a successful IT project. This phase sets the stage for effective decision-making, strategic planning, and implementation. A thorough understanding of the organization's current state, combined with a clear vision for the future, allows for targeted and efficient solutions that align with the overall business objectives. By investing time and effort in this phase, organizations can maximize the potential benefits of their IT projects and set themselves on a path toward success.


Phase 2: The Strategy Definition: the Path to Get to Where They Want to Go

With a clear understanding of their current state, pain points, goals, and project requirements, the discovery moves into the second phase, which focuses on developing a strategic roadmap. This phase involves formulating a high-level plan that outlines the steps, milestones, and timelines required to reach the desired destination. It encompasses defining project goals, identifying key performance indicators (KPIs), and establishing a framework for measuring success. Additionally, organizations must consider factors such as resource allocation, budgeting, and risk assessment during the strategy planning process. The strategic roadmap provides a blueprint for the successful execution of the project, ensuring that it remains aligned with the overarching business objectives. And after validation with the customer of the solution strategy and outcomes, the discovery team may move to the next phase.


Below are explained in detail the operations and outcomes of the strategy definition phase.


Crafting a Path to Success: The Strategy Definition Phase Details

After a comprehensive assessment of the organization's current state and objectives in the Assessment Phase (see Phase 1: Understand and Assess), the Strategy Definition Phase takes center stage in project discovery. This critical phase focuses on transforming the identified goals into actionable strategies, defining the technology and scope, creating a high-level strategic plan, mitigating risks, and establishing acceptance criteria with measurable key performance indicators (KPIs). By following a systematic approach in this phase, organizations can effectively plan and execute their projects, ensuring alignment with business objectives and maximizing the chances of success. In this article, we explore the key components of the Strategy Definition Phase, highlighting the importance of goal prioritization, technology definition, strategic planning, risk mitigation, and performance measurement.


Prioritize the identified goals in the Assessment Phase:

To create a strategic roadmap, it is essential to prioritize the goals identified in the Assessment Phase. Not all goals can be addressed simultaneously due to resource constraints or dependencies. By prioritizing the goals based on their significance, potential impact, and alignment with the organization's overarching strategy, organizations can focus their efforts and resources on the most critical objectives. This step ensures a clear and targeted approach in the subsequent planning and implementation stages of the project.

During this operation, the discovery team has to remember that the project execution should be interactive, not a big-bang and the value should be delivered for the customer and business iteratively.


Define the technology and the scope:

In this operation, the discovery team, with the organization’s stakeholders, defines the technology and scope of the project. This involves selecting the appropriate technology stack, platforms, tools, or systems that align with the identified goals and requirements. Additionally, the scope of the project is defined to outline the boundaries and deliverables. By clearly defining the technology and scope, organizations lay the foundation for a well-defined and manageable project, minimizing scope creep and ensuring the project's objectives are achievable.


Define a High-Level Strategic Plan:

The creation of a high-level strategic plan is crucial in guiding the project toward success. This plan outlines the overarching approach, timelines, milestones, and resource allocation required to achieve the project's goals. It serves as a roadmap, providing a clear direction and ensuring that all stakeholders are aligned on the project's strategic direction. The strategic plan also helps in managing expectations, communicating progress, and addressing any potential roadblocks or challenges that may arise during the project implementation.


Identify risks and create a mitigation plan:

No IT project is without risks. Therefore, it is vital to identify potential risks and develop a mitigation plan to minimize their impact. By conducting a comprehensive risk assessment, organizations can identify potential obstacles, vulnerabilities, and dependencies that may affect the project's progress or outcomes. A well-developed mitigation plan outlines strategies to address each risk, assign responsibilities, and establish contingency measures. This proactive approach enables organizations to anticipate and address potential challenges, minimizing disruptions and ensuring smooth project execution.


Define acceptance criteria and measurement KPIs:

Defining acceptance criteria and measurement KPIs is essential for evaluating the success of a project. Acceptance criteria establish the standards and requirements that need to be met for the project to be considered complete and successful. Measurement KPIs provide quantifiable metrics to track progress, evaluate performance, and assess whether the project has achieved its intended outcomes. By clearly defining acceptance criteria and measurement KPIs, organizations can ensure transparency, accountability, and objective evaluation of the project's success.


Outcomes of the Strategy Definition Phase

The Strategy Definition Phase in IT project discovery aims to transform identified goals into actionable strategies, define technology and scope, create a high-level strategic plan, identify risks and mitigation plans, and establish acceptance criteria with measurable key performance indicators (KPIs). The outcomes of the Strategy Definition Phase are as follows:


  1. Prioritized Goals: By prioritizing goals identified in the Assessment Phase, organizations gain a clear focus on the most critical objectives that align with the business strategy. This outcome enables efficient resource allocation and targeted efforts towards achieving the highest-priority goals.

  2. Defined Technology and Scope: Defining the technology and scope of the IT project ensures clarity and alignment with the identified goals. This outcome helps in selecting the appropriate tools, platforms, and systems while setting the boundaries and deliverables of the project, minimizing scope creep and ensuring a well-defined project scope.

  3. High-Level Strategic Plan: The creation of a high-level strategic plan provides a roadmap for the project's execution. This outcome outlines the approach, timelines, milestones, and resource allocation required to achieve the project's goals, ensuring alignment among stakeholders, managing expectations, and providing guidance throughout the project lifecycle.

  4. Risk Identification and Mitigation Plan: By identifying potential risks and creating a mitigation plan, organizations proactively address obstacles that could hinder project progress. This outcome allows for the development of strategies and contingency measures to mitigate risks, minimize disruptions, and ensure successful project execution.

  5. Defined Acceptance Criteria and Measurement KPIs: Defining acceptance criteria and measurement KPIs establishes clear standards for project success and enables objective evaluation. This outcome ensures transparency, accountability, and effective performance measurement, allowing stakeholders to assess whether the project has met its objectives and delivered the desired outcomes.

  6. Project Level 1 Solution: Based on the goals, requirements, and strategy defined during this phase, the high-level solution should be prepared as a result for the C-Level audience. (see Level 1 Solution Details section presented below).


By achieving these outcomes in the Strategy Definition Phase, organizations lay the groundwork for a well-planned and successful IT project. The clarity gained in prioritizing goals, defining technology and scope, creating a strategic plan, addressing risks, and establishing measurable criteria provides a solid foundation for subsequent phases, increasing the project's chances of success and alignment with business objectives.


Conclusion for the Strategy Definition Phase:

The Strategy Definition Phase in the project discovery sets the stage for a well-planned and successful project execution. By prioritizing goals, defining technology and scope, creating a high-level strategic plan, identifying and mitigating risks, and defining acceptance criteria and measurement KPIs, organizations establish a solid foundation for their IT projects. This systematic and strategic approach ensures alignment with business objectives, efficient resource allocation, and effective project management. By investing time and effort in the Strategy Definition Phase, organizations lay the groundwork for a clear direction, proactive risk management, and measurable success criteria. This paves the way for the subsequent phases of the IT project, enabling organizations to navigate the project lifecycle with confidence and increase the likelihood of achieving their desired outcomes.


Phase 3: The Solution Needed to Get Them Where They Need to Go

The third and final phase of the project discovery centers around identifying the optimal solution or combination of solutions to address the identified needs and achieve the defined project goals. This involves evaluating various options, such as software platforms, infrastructure upgrades, process improvements, or outsourcing opportunities, based on their alignment with the strategic roadmap. Careful consideration of factors such as:

  • Scalability,

  • Availability

  • Compatibility,

  • Maintainability,

  • Extensibility,

  • Cost-effectiveness,

  • Flexibility,

  • Testability,

  • Usability,

and implementation requirements are essential to selecting the most suitable solution. The outcome of this phase provides organizations with a clear direction and an actionable plan to proceed with the implementation and execution of their IT project.


Solution Definition Phase: Crafting the Blueprint for IT Project Success

In the Solution Definition Phase of the project development, the focus shifts from strategic planning to the detailed design and documentation of the proposed solution. Building upon the goals and strategies identified in the previous phases, this critical phase involves architecting the solution, creating comprehensive technical documentation, mapping out a detailed roadmap, and preparing presentation materials for key stakeholders. By following a systematic approach in the Solution Definition Phase, organizations can ensure a clear and well-communicated solution blueprint, enabling successful implementation and alignment with business objectives. In this article, we delve into the key components of the Solution Definition Phase, highlighting the importance of architectural design, technical documentation, roadmap creation, and effective stakeholder communication.


Architectural Design for Solution Defined and Verified during Strategic Plan Definition Phase:

During the Strategic Plan Definition Phase, the high-level architectural design for the proposed solution is conceptualized and verified. In the Solution Definition Phase, this architectural design is further refined and detailed. The architecture encompasses the system components, modules, databases, interfaces, and integration points necessary for the successful implementation of the project. By thoroughly defining and verifying the architectural design, organizations ensure that the proposed solution aligns with the strategic objectives and can effectively address the identified goals and requirements.


Detailed Technical Documentation for Delivery Team:

To guide the delivery team effectively, detailed technical documentation is created in the Solution Definition Phase. This documentation provides in-depth information about the solution's technical aspects, including system requirements, data models, workflows, algorithms, APIs, and deployment considerations. The technical documentation acts as a reference for the development team, helping them understand the intricacies of the solution and facilitating efficient implementation. Clear and comprehensive technical documentation reduces ambiguity, enhances collaboration, and streamlines the development process.


Detailed Roadmap for Current Goals and High-Level Roadmap for Future Goals:

In the Solution Definition Phase, a detailed roadmap is created to outline the implementation plan for achieving the current project goals. This roadmap includes specific milestones, deliverables, timelines, and resource allocation for the immediate project objectives. Additionally, a high-level roadmap is established to provide a broad overview of the future goals and potential phases of the IT project beyond the current scope. The roadmap serves as a guide, enabling effective project management, resource planning, and alignment with organizational priorities.


Presentation Materials for C-level Stakeholders, Managers, and Engineering Teams:

Communication and stakeholder engagement are crucial in the Solution Definition Phase. To effectively convey the proposed solution and gain support, presentation materials are prepared for C-level stakeholders, managers, and engineering teams. These materials present a concise overview of the solution's key features, benefits, and alignment with business objectives. Visual aids, diagrams, and demonstrations are used to enhance understanding and engagement. Clear and compelling presentation materials facilitate decision-making, secure buy-in, and align stakeholders' expectations.


Outcomes:

The Solution Definition Phase in IT project development aims to create a clear and detailed blueprint for the proposed solution. Through architectural design, comprehensive technical documentation, roadmap creation, and effective stakeholder communication, this phase sets the foundation for successful implementation. The outcomes of the Solution Definition Phase are as follows:


  1. Refined and Verified Architectural Design: The Solution Definition Phase builds upon the architectural design defined and verified during the strategic planning phase. This outcome ensures that the solution's technical components, interfaces, and integration points are thoroughly defined and aligned with the project's goals and requirements. A refined architectural design provides a solid blueprint for the development and implementation stages. The solution should be prepared and presented as presented in below for Level 2 and Level 3 Solutions.

  2. Detailed Technical Documentation: Detailed technical documentation is created to provide in-depth information about the solution's technical aspects. This outcome includes system requirements, data models, workflows, algorithms, and deployment considerations. Comprehensive technical documentation serves as a reference for the development team, facilitating efficient implementation, minimizing errors, and enabling effective collaboration.

  3. Detailed Roadmap: The Solution Definition Phase involves creating a detailed roadmap for achieving the current project goals. This outcome outlines specific milestones, deliverables, timelines, and resource allocation required to accomplish the project objectives. A detailed roadmap ensures clarity, alignment, and effective project management, enabling teams to progress systematically and stay on track.

  4. Effective Stakeholder Communication: Effective stakeholder communication is a crucial outcome of the Solution Definition Phase. By preparing presentation materials and engaging with C-level stakeholders, managers, and engineering teams, the proposed solution is effectively communicated. This outcome fosters stakeholder alignment, secures buy-in, and ensures a shared understanding of the solution's benefits and alignment with business objectives.


By achieving these outcomes during the Solution Definition Phase, organizations establish a solid foundation for successful implementation. The refined architectural design, detailed technical documentation, comprehensive roadmap, and effective stakeholder communication enable efficient development, collaboration, and alignment with organizational goals. These outcomes pave the way for subsequent phases, facilitating a smooth transition into the execution and delivery stages of the IT project.


Conclusion for the Solution Definition Phase:

The Solution Definition Phase is a pivotal stage in IT project development, where the blueprint for the solution is created and communicated. Through architectural design, detailed technical documentation, roadmap creation, and effective stakeholder communication, organizations lay the groundwork for successful implementation. By defining and refining the architectural design, providing comprehensive technical documentation, outlining a detailed roadmap, and preparing engaging presentation materials, organizations ensure a clear and well-communicated solution blueprint. This sets the stage for efficient development, stakeholder alignment, and realization of the project's goals. By investing time and effort in the Solution Definition Phase, organizations pave the way for successful execution, ensuring the solution aligns with business objectives and maximizes the potential for positive outcomes.


Conclusion for Discovery 3 Phases:

The journey of project discovery is a critical undertaking that empowers organizations to make informed decisions, minimize risks, and maximize the benefits of their technology initiatives. By navigating through the three fundamental phases of understanding and assessing, developing a strategic roadmap, and identifying the necessary solutions, businesses can embark on a well-structured and successful IT project journey. This comprehensive approach enables organizations to harness the power of technology, streamline operations, and propel themselves toward their desired future state.


Summary

The discovery process, consisting of three crucial phases - Understanding and Assessment, Strategy Definition, and Solution Definition - lays the groundwork for a successful and well-executed IT project. Through these phases, organizations gain a comprehensive understanding of their current state, define strategic goals, and develop a clear roadmap for the proposed solution. Let's summarize the outcomes of each phase:


Understanding and Assessment Phase:

During this phase, stakeholders are identified, business domains and goals are identified, pain points are identified, and the desired result state is defined. The outcomes include clear stakeholder identification, a defined business domain and goals, identification of pain points, and a validated desired result state. These outcomes ensure that all stakeholders have a shared understanding of the project's objectives and provide a roadmap for improvement.


Strategy Definition Phase:

In this phase, goals are prioritized, technology and scope are defined, a high-level strategic plan is created, risks are identified with mitigation plans, and acceptance criteria with measurement KPIs are defined. The outcomes encompass prioritized goals, a defined technology and scope, a high-level strategic plan, risk mitigation plans, and defined acceptance criteria and measurement KPIs. These outcomes provide a clear strategic direction, mitigate risks, and establish a framework for monitoring and evaluating project success.


Solution Definition Phase:

During this phase, the architectural design is refined, detailed technical documentation is created, a detailed roadmap is established, and presentation materials are prepared. The outcomes consist of a refined architectural design, detailed technical documentation, a detailed roadmap, and effective stakeholder communication. These outcomes ensure a well-defined solution blueprint, facilitate efficient implementation, and foster stakeholder alignment and engagement.


By achieving the outcomes of each phase, organizations enhance their ability to plan, execute, and deliver successful IT projects. The discovery process enables organizations to align their IT initiatives with business objectives, address pain points, mitigate risks, and establish clear success criteria. The collaboration and insights gained during these phases lay the foundation for effective project management, efficient resource allocation, and informed decision-making.


However, it is essential to note that the discovery process is not a one-time event. After the initial discovery, during the project execution, an iterative and continuous process of feedback gathering, adaptation, and refinement plays a vital role. Regular reviews and adjustments throughout the project lifecycle ensure that the project stays on track, addresses evolving needs, and maximizes its potential for success.


Conclusion

In conclusion, the discovery process, encompassing the Understanding and Assessment, Strategy Definition, and Solution Definition phases, is a critical journey that sets the stage for successful projects. The outcomes of these phases provide organizations with the necessary insights, strategies, and blueprints to navigate the complexities of IT initiatives, align with business objectives, mitigate risks, and deliver tangible results. By embracing a systematic and iterative approach to the discovery process, organizations can enhance their project success rates and unlock the full potential of their IT investments.


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