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Delivering Successful Enterprise Architecture Needs an Achievable Plan

We talk to lots of people who are rebooting the Enterprise Architecture function in their organisation following previous failed efforts. A common characteristic we see is in the approach to execution. Too often the stakeholders were promised lots of great things, either in an effort to prove the value and need for EA, or in the belief that the wider organisation would readily engage in EA. In reality, the scale of delivery was unachievable in the timescales promised for a variety of reasons, including:

  • Lack of buy in from the people/teams outside the EA team who had to participate, with problems such as
    • They weren’t told about their involvement
    • They didn’t understand what the expectation was
    • They didn’t have time set aside to participate
    • It was much more effort than they were told
    • They weren’t sure what was in it for them
  • Lack of data to support the initiative
  • The EA team had changing priorities and didn’t communicate the impacts on the promises, so stakeholder expectations remained the same but the team couldn’t deliver


So how should EAs approach creating an actionable, achievable plan:

Do your groundwork before you promise anything

  1. Speak to your stakeholders on what value is for them
    (we have lots of blogs on this already, see some examples below)
    Does successful Enterprise Architecture need Business Engagement?
    Is your Enterprise Architecture delivering value
    Empowering Enterprise Architects: Trusted Advisors, Not Rule Enforcers
  2. Work out what you have got to work with – what data exists and is accessible, e.g. do you have applications lists and costs, do you have a capability model, do you have processes, are there standards, do you have supplier lifecycles?
  3. Identify where the change teams need the most help – can you speed up their projects somehow?
  4. Prioritise where the biggest benefit for the least work is
  5. Agree the priorities with your key stakeholder
  6. Communicate the outcome with other Stakeholders so they understand where they are in the plan, and why

Create a plan

  1. Break the priorities into achievable value drops – keep them small but ensure someone will say, ‘Yes, that helps me’ and your key stakeholder can say ‘we delivered value’
  2. Plan the value drops in 4 week – 12 week delivery cycles, don’t give exact dates, just talk in monthly or quarterly terms for delivery – as architects, we often get pulled into change activities for advice, so this allows room for other work to impact the delivery of our value drops
    1. Your initial few value drops should be in ~4 week cycles so you can quickly demonstrate value and gain credibility
    2. Your value drop will ideally follow on from each other, e.g.
      i. Create a single list of applications in drop 1
      ii. Identify application costs in drop 2 so we understand application spend
      iii. Map to business capabilities in drop 3 so we can show where the costs are spread across the business and start to identify high spend areas
    3. Any people involved in the drops should be engaged to get agreement, in the above example, application lists are usually spread across spreadsheets etc that people already have, for costs Finance can be engaged, for Business Capabilities some BAs will be needed
  3. Agree the plan with the key stakeholder

Execute the Plan

  1. Communicate the plan
  2. Manage it carefully, try not to scope creep the drops. Focus is everything
  3. Communicate delivery of the value drops. Make sure people know you’ve delivered, this creates credibility
  4. Don’t be de-railed by new requirements from stakeholders that have seen success – understand their needs, prioritise with the other stakeholders and add to the plan
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