Enterprise Architecture can design and implement a system, re-architect an entire business unit or build a product line from scratch
Enterprise Architecture (EA) is a field claimed by many, understood by few, practised by fewer and scoffed at by plenty. The reality is that while the discipline is relatively new, the activities involved have always been an important part of business planning (just not combined into the single role).
It emerged as a discrete practice when people began to realise the highly skilled individuals who were initially responsible for designing, building and running computer systems were often missing opportunities to fully integrate those systems into the business, and provide outcomes that could be appreciated across the C-suite. Building a system in isolation may mean the project goals are achieved, but without considered architecture it probably won’t provide value to any other part of the organisation.
So, what does a well-designed and executed EA achieve? An obvious comparison would be the questions asked by a Residential Architect.
- Do you need a carport, house, or a concert hall?
- Do you already have the building in place and want to keep the shell?
- What time, resources and money are available?
All of these examples have similarities to the goals of an Enterprise Architect:
- Design, implement or modernise a system;
- Re-architect an entire business unit;
- Build a product line from scratch.
The EA's job is to understand what the motivation is behind the call to action - not just the task - and deliver an outcome that enables the business to better carry out its mission. This might be delivering pizzas or providing human aid - the specifics might change but the process is the same.
There is no 'Enterprise Architecture for dummies' book because so much of it revolves around process and defining what constitutes success or failure in relative terms. At its logical foundations, Enterprise Architecture is a way of thinking; a way of operating that permeates a company to support good decision making, similar to Business Insights.
Some of the challenges with Enterprise Architecture exist around the following:
- Getting solution architecture confused with enterprise architecture - EA's focus is organisation-wide;
- Organisational structures that don’t support the breadth necessary for successful Enterprise Architecture;
- Lack of funding; True Enterprise Architecture encompasses everything from vision to the detailed requirements. Project-based scope constraints can artificially limit the benefits, and;
- Poor governance.
But the greatest challenge is that a lot of organisations don't even know they're missing an Enterprise Architecture. Some indications that it may be missing include:
- Planning to launch a new product but can’t get consensus from all department heads.
- IT is totally sold on a new Cloud-based system, but Finance and HR are resistant to change
- Temporary staff are needed to manually process transactions at peak times
Not everyone can justify the expense of a permanent internal Enterprise Architecture practice. It can seem like a lot of money to sink into something with undefined outcomes, which is why organisations often opt to work with an outsourced team, such as MOQdigital.
What sets an organisation with Enterprise Architecture apart from its peers is not necessarily a great suite of products or services, and/or a highly efficient IT platform, it is that the organisation knows where it is, where it is going and how it is going to get there. And when the market swings, the business architecture can adapt to a changing IT architecture, new organisation structures, changing personnel or any number of other strategic changes.
If you can recognise your own organisation in the article above, take the next step now and discover whether or not your organisation requires Enterprise Architecture.