Two Things you Need to Know About Enterprise Architecture

1. Are you looking at Enterprise Architecture as a Function or Strategy?

2. What is the difference and why does it matter?

Many medium to large organizations have “architects” and a large majority of them are found in departments that provide the organization’s information and communication technology (IT and ICT). These organizations have a department/group called Enterprise Architecture (EA) that is supposed to help the organization bring about complex changes in IT and in more cases, to those that are consuming IT.

The function of being able to plan and deliver change to an ever-changing ecosystem is essential for any organization. Some organizations have done well to establish the function of the EA group, it is visible throughout the IT organization and involved throughout the change lifecycle. The function is known, people are assigned roles, the work products produced are defined and processes to deliver the defined changes are well understood. Few organizations have achieved this level of functional maturity, but even for those that have, this is often not enough.

EA should also be seen as a strategy, a mindset that can provide insights into important business decisions; in this respect EA is a management tool set. In this context, EA is abstract; it is a philosophy that can provide needed insights to support the goals, objectives and “gut feel” for senior leaders.

In brief – certainly not exhaustive – there are some important notes to remember when looking at EA as a strategy.

1.     As a strategy, EA is not performed only by Enterprise Architects. Many roles and people across the organization can provide valuable perspectives and insights. Through its tool sets and ability to have both a broad and detailed view, EA can unite these perspectives and identify commonality in the natural conflict of an organization.

2.     EA does not have ownership, (management is accountable) and therefore does not make business decisions. EA can inform decision makers of what they need to consider. Questions asked require more than “yes” and “no” answers and EA can provide insight into what will make the desired outcome successful and thereby reduce risk and increase viability of success. Whatever the decision, EA must find ways to make the desired outcome successful.

3.     EA does not define an organization’s purpose. EA must understand the organization’s identity, mission and culture and provide its findings with these considerations and is therefore tailored for an organization.

Keep in mind that not all organizations will call this work “Enterprise Architecture” (some call it Business Alignment) there are organizations that are asking the right questions and applying EA as a strategy successfully and make timely and good business decisions. The label of “EA” is not important but the application and acceptance of it is.

Why does this matter?

It is important to know the challenges faced by an organization, is it with decision making, alignment and communication to its parts or with execution. Those that have had careers in IT and have worked their way to an architect position have a good depth of IT knowledge and can help in the delivery of EA as a function for IT. The common obstacles that they face is being able to convince IT management of their approach and the roles that they should play in the delivery of IT solutions; this requires a good understanding of EA as a strategy which requires leadership support to be successful.

Those that are looking to create, improve or adopt Enterprise Architecture should remember:

“Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.” – Sun Tzu

You can make incremental changes to an existing EA function to make marginal improvements, this requires a good understanding of the function of EA. To reap the big rewards of being efficient, effective and having strong organizational alignment, EA as a strategy is essential. The key to its successful adoption is knowing what to communicate to management and decision makers.

I look forward to your comments and feedback, let’s have a conversation.

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