EA - A Core Function Of An Organisation

Enterprise Architecture Good Practice – Engaging the Organisation

Enterprise Architecture Good Practice – Engaging the Organisation

EA - A Core Function Of An Organisation

Enterprise Architecture should be established as a core function in any organisation, as shown above. However, even in organisations that have had such a function in place for many years, it often struggles to gain real traction with business change and systems delivery project teams. Only through bitter experience in such cases is the value of the function appreciated (for example, after it has managed to resolve conflicts between projects).

The source of these tensions is easy to find. While enterprise architects are intent on assuring the integrity of the target business operating model and its IT support, project managers and their designers are motivated by the need to deliver local solutions in line with agreed project budgets and schedules. When these interests conflict, as they inevitably do, the project managers often win the day. This is because change projects generally draw upon strong business support, while the enterprise architects are seen as serving a worthy but remote and less tangible cause. The predictable consequence is an unplanned proliferation of incompatible solutions.

From our experience we have found that to be successful, enterprise architecture teams need strong backing from their ultimate stakeholder (be it the CIO, CDO or whomever), and are seen to guide and support, rather than simply police, the design activities of change projects.

We have also observed several good practices that organisations use to address the inherent conflicts of interest between their enterprise architecture function and the business change project teams:

Provide strong governance mechanisms

An organisation’s enterprise architecture should derive directly from its business and IT strategies. Governance mechanisms should be set up to ensure that this linkage is maintained, and that the business change portfolio is aligned with both the strategies and the architecture. Effective governance will ensure that enterprise-level architectural principles are developed and observed. It will also provide an escalation process for handling conflicts of interest and challenges to the principles.

Ensure continuous executive-level support for enterprise architecture

Executive-level support for the enterprise architecture function, sustained over time, is essential to maintaining its credibility and influence, particularly when uncomfortable decisions have to be taken. This support should come not only from the CxO, but also from business executives through the relevant governance mechanisms.

Keep the enterprise architecture up to date

Regular updating of enterprise architecture models and standards is required to reflect changes in both business strategy and available technology options. A common criticism of the enterprise architecture function is that it is overly focused on the re-use of existing IT assets at the expense of new technologies or innovative uses of IT. We know of one company that counters this by involving its enterprise architects with its centres of technical innovation. When change projects draw upon the expertise of these centres, the solutions presented already conform to the organisation’s architectural principles. In another company the enterprise architects form skunkworks teams that evaluate new technologies, and project team staff are co-opted into these teams. In this way, the enterprise architecture function is seen as being at the forefront of innovation.

Build enterprise architecture into the change management process

Some organisations have successfully integrated enterprise architecture into their project development process. Here the enterprise architects are involved in the formative stages of any new change project well before any definite decisions on solutions have been made. A  further successful approach is to define a catalogue of approved IT products that conform with an organisation’s enterprise architecture standards. A well-crafted catalogue should aim to satisfy requests for new applications in the majority of cases. This should make it easier, faster and cheaper for projects to do things in the standard way, with enterprise architecture focused on ease of implementation.

Ensure that enterprise architects work actively with project teams

This requires the enterprise architects to engage directly with the initial project definition process, and subsequently in evaluating appropriate solutions, helping resolve design problems, and facilitating discussions on architecture issues with the business. In this way the enterprise architects are associated with the success of change projects – they are seen to add value, rather than impede progress.

Establish sanctions for non-conformance

Some organisations have established sanctions on change projects that fail to conform to enterprise architecture standards. We are aware of one organisation that requires divergent projects to plan and budget for subsequent remediation remedies. In another company the financial consequences of non-conformance are made visible to the corporate CFO, who then adds that amount to the contribution that the business unit is required to deliver on a quarterly basis. Such sanctions can be effective, but we believe that positive reinforcement measures work best.

While every organisation is different, learning from these good practices will undoubtedly help to resolve inevitable conflict between the tactical needs sometimes demanded by project teams and the strategic interests of the EA Team, and organisation as a whole.

Additional Reading – Related Posts

Is Your Enterprise Architecture Delivering value

Empowering the Enterprise Architecture Function

Empowering Enterprise Architects – Trusted Advisers not Rule Enforcers

Recognise Different Management Agendas – The EA’s Role 

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