Gartner says companies must implement a Pattern-Based Strategy

In my day job, I help clients be innovative leaders, constantly looking for what it takes to be better than the rest. Gartner recently has announced a new initiative called Pattern-Based Strategy.

It is a pleasant surprise to have Gartner’s nine analysts come to a recommendation I’ve been using for over five years in IT infrastructure.

Introducing Pattern-Based Strategy

7 August 2009

Yvonne Genovese Valentin T. Sribar Stephen Prentice Betsy Burton Tom Austin Nigel Rayner Jamie Popkin Michael Smith David Newman

The environment after the recession means business leaders must be more proactive in seeking patterns from conventional and unconventional sources that can positively or negatively impact strategy or operations, and set up a consistent and repeatable response by adjusting business patterns.

One of the best groups I worked with at Microsoft and still have many friends in is the Patterns & Practices group, and I still have regular discussions of how Data Centers and IT could/should be using a patterns-based approach.

You’ve probably guessed from the first half our name that we’re rather enthusiastic about design patterns.  Design patterns describe solutions to common issues that occur in application design and development. A large part of what we do involves identifying these common issues and figuring out solutions to them that can be used across different applications or scenarios. Once we have the patterns, we typically package them up in what we call an application block.

Software people have been some of the early adopters of patterns, but the history of patterns comes from Christopher Alexander, a building architect.

A pattern must explain why a particular situation causes problems, and why the proposed solution is considered a good one. Christopher Alexander describes common design problems as arising from "conflicting forces" -- such as the conflict between wanting a room to be sunny and wanting it not to overheat on summer afternoons. A pattern would not tell the designer how many windows to put in the room; instead, it would propose a set of values to guide the designer toward a decision that is best for their particular application. Alexander, for example, suggests that enough windows should be included to direct light all around the room. He considers this a good solution because he believes it increases the enjoyment of the room by its occupants. Other authors might come to different conclusions, if they place higher value on heating costs, or material costs. These values, used by the pattern's author to determine which solution is "best", must also be documented within the pattern.

A pattern must also explain when it is applicable. Since two houses may be very different from one another, a design pattern for houses must be broad enough to apply to both of them, but not so vague that it doesn't help the designer make decisions. The range of situations in which a pattern can be used is called its context. Some examples might be "all houses", "all two-story houses", or "all places where people spend time." The context must be documented within the pattern.

For instance, in Christopher Alexander's work, bus stops and waiting rooms in a surgery center are both part of the context for the pattern "A PLACE TO WAIT."

I’ve spent most of my career working on the Mac OS/hardware and Windows OS/hardware The use of patterns seemed like a natural thing to do, but not intuitive for the people who deploy IT infrastructure.  With Gartner’s Pattern-Based Strategy, my persuasion challenge is dramatically decreased.

So, what is good about Gartner’s Pattern-Based announcement?  Their first 2 paragraphs are well written to identify the need.

Gartner Says Companies Must Implement a Pattern-Based Strategy™ to Increase Their Competitive Advantage

Analysts Discuss the Framework for Implementing a Pattern-Based Strategy During Gartner Symposium/ITxpo, October 18-22, in Orlando

STAMFORD, Conn., October 8, 2009 —

The economic environment rapidly emerging from the recession will force business leaders to look at their opportunities for growth, competitive differentiation, and cost controls in a new way. A Pattern-Based Strategy will help leaders harness and drive change, rather than simply react to it, according to Gartner, Inc.

A Pattern-Based Strategy provides a framework to proactively seek, model and adapt to leading indicators, often-termed "weak" signals that form patterns in the marketplace. Not only will leading organizations excel at identifying new patterns and exploiting them for competitive advantage, but their own innovation will create new patterns of change within the marketplace that will force others to react.

They identify the need for closed loop feedback systems to measure the effectiveness of change.


Most business strategy approaches have long emphasized the need to seek better information and insights to inform strategic decisions and the need for scenario planning and robust organizational change management. Few have connected this activity directly to the execution of successful business outcomes. According to Gartner, successful organizations can achieve this by establishing the following disciplines and proactively using technology to enable each of these activities:

For the same reason I added modeling and social networking to the list of things I discuss and blog about, Gartner explains.

Modeling for pattern analysis — Once new patterns are detected or created, business and IT leaders must use collaborative processes, such as scenario planning, to discuss the potential significance, impact and timing of them on the organization's strategy and business operations. The purpose of modeling is to determine which patterns represent great potential or risk to the organization by qualifying and quantifying the impact.

"Successful organizations will focus their pattern-seeking activities on areas that are most important to their organization," said Ms. Genovese. "Using models to do scenario planning will be critical to fact-based decisions and the transparency of the result."

I have my black belt in Aikido, and one of the most important skills I figured out to be better is you must develop the skills to change.  Gartner adds this as well.

Adapting to capture the benefits — Identifying a pattern of change and qualifying the potential impact are meaningless without the ability to adapt and execute to a successful business outcome. Business and IT leaders must adapt strategy, operations and their people's behaviors decisively to capture the benefits of new patterns with a consistent and repeatable response that is focused on results.

Clients – I told you taking a modeling based approach to discover patterns with real-time monitoring systems will allow you to be ahead of the competition.  And, what better proof than Gartner now promoting the same ideas.  :-)