Most organisations experience tensions between the central enterprise architecture team and the solution architects assigned to projects. While the enterprise architects are keen to assure the integrity of the overall business operating model and its IT support, project managers and architects are motivated by the need to deliver local solutions in line with agreed project budgets and schedules. When these interests conflict, the project managers often win the day. This is because change projects draw upon strong business support, while the enterprise architects are seen as serving a worthy but less tangible cause. The predictable result is a proliferation of incompatible solutions.
We have observed several practices used by companies to address these conflicts of interest:
- Provide strong governance mechanisms
An organization’s enterprise architecture should be derived directly from its business and IT strategies. Governance mechanisms with executive-level support should be set up to ensure that the business change portfolio is aligned with these strategies and the architecture. Effective governance will ensure that enterprise-level architectural principles are developed and observed. It should also provide an escalation process for handling challenges to these principles.
- Keep the enterprise architecture up to date
Regular updating of enterprise architecture models and standards is needed to reflect changes in business strategy or in available technology options. A common criticism of enterprise architects is that they focus 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 linking its enterprise architects with centres of excellence in areas such as portal development. When change projects draw upon the expertise of these centres, the solutions they present already conform to the organisation’s architectural principles. In another company the enterprise architects form ‘skunkworks’ teams for evaluating new technologies, and project team staff are then 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
A powerful way of avoiding conflicts is to integrate enterprise architecture into the project delivery process. This starts by involving enterprise architects in the formative stages of any new change project well before any decisions on solutions have been made. The enterprise architects can then guide the selection process to encourage use of standard offerings. During the course of the project they can help resolve design problems and facilitate discussions of issues concerning the operating model with the business – they will thus be seen to add value, rather than impede progress. Moving staff between development projects and the enterprise architecture team can also create greater awareness of the broader architectural context.
- Help project teams document their solutions
Even the best run systems development shops struggle to ensure that projects are adequately documented. By providing projects with standard ways of recording the metadata that spans business and IT capabilities, the enterprise architecture function can reinforce the necessary disciplines. Note that the Essential Architecture Manager enables such metadata to be easily recorded by non-specialist project staff in a standard way. This means that much of the routine metadata capture process can be handed off to the projects, thus providing more time for the skilled enterprise architects to concentrate on the more challenging modelling and analysis tasks.
- Establish sanctions for non-conformance
Some organisations have established sanctions on change projects that fail to conform to enterprise architecture standards. In one case, divergent projects are required to plan and budget for subsequent remediation remedies. In another company the financial consequences of non-conformance are notified to the corporate CFO, who then adds the resulting amounts to the contributions that business units are required to deliver on a quarterly basis. Such sanctions can be effective, but we believe that for the most part positive reinforcement measures will work best.
Finding the right approach for your particular organisation can help build credibility and success for your EA initiative. Whilst the tension between EA and Project Management is inevitable, we have shown that it is something that can be managed and even leveraged to deliver a positive outcome for your organisation.