Practical EA may be key to its relevance

Most Architects and probably most IT people understand the benefits of a well-functioning Enterprise Architecture capability. Can we say the Business understands it too?

Developing and sustaining EA capability in context of a large enterprise can be very challenging. It is so because organizations usually start with the lot of baggage that has accumulated over the years. The baggage being the organizational silos, technical debt or company culture to name a few. For that reason it is very important to have a clearly articulated value proposition for EA. The value proposition must resonate with the Business and offer some short-term benefits in addition to long-term benefits. Having articulated the value, it is important to focus on delivering on those short-term promises because the failure to do so may undermine EA’s ability to realize the long-term ones. What does it mean exactly, you ask? It means that you may have to take a practical approach to Enterprise Architecture as opposed to a holistic one. It may mean the following:

  • Using architecture frameworks as guides and not as exact blueprints for EA.
  • Maximizing the reuse of existing processes in your organization, however imperfect they may be.
  • Relying on simple and familiar tools instead of pursuing the holy grail of a tool that promises to solve all EA problems.
  • Limiting the amount of architectural information to the level that can be reliably managed while still providing tangible value.
  • Establishing controls to ensure that architectural information maintains its currency over time.

Of course, the list can go on. The bottom line is that in order to run you have to learn how to walk first. Business may never let EA “run” if they can’t see that it can walk straight.

Join me at #SATURN14 for a brief talk about a practical approach to integrating Enterprise Architecture.

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3 thoughts on “Practical EA may be key to its relevance

    • Thank you Adrian. That is a $20,000 question isn’t it? In my opinion, one way to approach it is to structure evolution of EA practice in such a way that allows for quick wins. This will allow to build the political capital for further evolution. In other words “start small with a clear goal in mind”. Many EA debates take a holistic and quasi-philosophical shape while the business moves forward. I admit that I’m guilty of participating in those just like any other guy. 🙂
      Unfortunately, business will not wait for EA to get it right. They will find another way and in the end we may be left just to clean up the mess.
      Thanks for your comment.

      • The discussions become philosophical because the body of knowledge is poor and fragmented, sometimes deliberately by the power players that keep their interests in mind.

        In the meantime, while believing in the concept, the business will have to get what it can. It is mainly the IT that gets a wider angle on its solutions and some strategic direction.

        I think that what we have to have in mind is the honest delivery of the enterprise big picture that is the integrated blueprint of the enterprise built out of the many documented bits of each domain. Once we do that the target architecture and the roadmap easily follow.
        One can then do own work in the context of the same enterprise wide architecture. The EA architects won’t have to step into solving all business issues of the enterpise.

        A proper modelling frame and process is what we lack to make things happen, because every other framework talks about process, governance, best practices, risks, culture, leadership… There is no shortage of that.

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