In my opinion, when introducing enterprise architecture into an organisation the most crucial aspect is the identification of the problem you need it to solve. And to do this effectively I believe that you need to clearly understand the aims and objectives of the business at that time.
We often find the EA team sitting within the IT organisation, but the team still needs to ensure that the identification of need is business led and that the EA is not used simply to document technical IT issues.
For example, it may be that the most important objective for the business at a point in time is to reduce costs to remain competitive in its pricing. Enterprise Architecture can meet this need in a number of ways depending on the company in question, but one way will be to capture the current state in the application architecture layer to allow consolidation of applications and thereby achieve cost reductions.
However, this would be a wholly inappropriate response if the business need were to expand into new markets. In this case the Enterprise Architecture should be identifying common processes and services that could be shared across divergent businesses to aid speed of change and agility.
This is at the crux of the reason that, to date, many companies are not satisfied with their EA initiative. All too often the EA will follow a prescribed, often IT based, root; lets capture the current state first; lets create an application catalogue; lets sort out our integration architecture; without first determining what the business needs it to do.
Once the link to business need is in place the EA can begin to provide what the business needs and positive results will be quickly seen.
Once the business need is identified, it’s time to consider the tools, people and processes needed to support it. In terms of processes we have identified two major contributing factors to a successful EA, ‘understanding’ and ‘control’.
By ‘understanding’, we mean having a coherent view of the business and IT assets of your enterprise readily available and accessible in order to support well-informed tactical and strategic decision-making. As the amount of information to pull together is often large, tools with the right information captured will give the understanding part of the equation.
By ‘control’, we mean having appropriate processes and techniques in place to manage and co-ordinate changes to these assets in line with these decisions.
In general, many of the problems that an EA will solve will be IT related, but the link with the business is imperative to ensure that the problem is the most relevant at that time and, crucially, that the EA Team are seen as making a real difference to the business in a relatively short time space.