By Serge Thorn, Architecting the Enterprise
This is the first post in a three-part series by Serge Thorn.
When introducing Enterprise Architecture as a program or initiative, it is regularly done from an IT perspective rarely considering what the costs will be and if there will be any return on investment. This presents a particular challenge to Enterprise Architecture.
Generally speaking, IT departments have all sorts of criteria to justify projects and measure their performance. They use measurements, metrics and KPIs. Going to the solution level, they commonly use indicators such as percentage uptime for systems from the system management team, error rates for applications from the development support team or number of calls resolved on the first call from the service desk, etc. These KPIs usually are defined at an early stage and very often delivered in dashboards from various support applications.
On the other hand, it is much more difficult to define and implement a quantifiable measure for Enterprise Architecture. Many activities introduced with appropriate governance will enhance the quality of the delivered products and services, but it still will be a challenge to attribute results to the quality of Enterprise Architecture efforts.
This being said, Enterprise Architects should be able to define and justify the benefits of their activities to their stakeholders, and to help executives understand how Enterprise Architecture will contribute to the primary value-adding objectives and processes, before starting the voyage. The more it is described and understood, the more the Enterprise Architecture team will gain support from the management. There are plenty of contributions that Enterprise Architecture brings and they will have to be documented and presented at an early stage.
There won’t be just one single answer to demonstrate the value of an Enterprise Architecture but there seems to be a common pattern when considering feedback from various companies I have worked with.
Without Enterprise Architecture you can probably NOT fully achieve:
IT alignment with the business goals
As an example among others, the problem with most IT plans is that they do not indicate what the business value is and what strategic or tactical business benefit the organization is planning to achieve. The simple matter is that any IT plan needs also to have a business metric, not only an IT metric of delivery. Another aspect is the ability to create and share a common vision of the future shared by the business and IT communities.
With the rapid pace of change in business environment, the need to transform organizations into agile enterprises that can respond quickly to change has never been greater. Methodologies and computer technologies are needed to enable rapid business and system change. The solution also lies in enterprise integration (both business and technology integration).
For business integration, we use Enterprise Architecture methodologies and frameworks to integrate functions, processes, data, locations, people, events and business plans throughout an organization. Specifically, the unification and integration of business processes and data across the enterprise and potential linkage with external partners become more and more important.
To also have technology integration, we may use enterprise portals, enterprise application integration (EAI/ESB), web services, service-oriented architecture (SOA), business process management (BPM) and try to lower the number of interfaces.
In recent years the scope of Enterprise Architecture has expanded beyond the IT domain and enterprise architects are increasingly taking on broader roles relating to organizational strategy and change management. Frameworks such as TOGAF® 9.1 include processes and tools for managing both the business/people and the technology sides of an organization. Enterprise Architecture supports the creation of changes related to the various architecture domains, evaluating the impact on the enterprise, taking into account risk management, financial aspects (cost/benefit analysis), and most importantly ensuring alignment with business goals and objectives. Enterprise Architecture value is essentially tied to its ability to help companies to deal with complexity and changes.
Reduced time to market and increased IT responsiveness
Enterprise Architecture should reduce systems development, applications generation and modernization timeframes for legacy systems. It should also decrease resource requirements. All of this can be accomplished by re-using standards or existing components, such as the architecture and solution building blocks in TOGAF 9.1. Delivery time and design/development costs can also be decreased by the reuse of reference models. All that information should be managed in an Enterprise Architecture repository.
Better access to information across applications and improved interoperability
Data and information architectures manage the organization assets of information, optimally and efficiently. This supports the quality, accuracy and timely availability of data for executive and strategic business decision-making, across applications.
Readily available descriptive representations and documentation of the enterprise
Architecture is also a set of descriptive representations (i.e. “models”) that are relevant for describing an enterprise such that it can be produced to management’s requirements and maintained over the period of its useful life. Using an architecture repository, developing a variety of artifacts and modelling some of the key elements of the enterprise, will contribute to build this documentation.
The second part of the series will include more examples of what an enterprise cannot achieve without Enterprise Architecture.
Serge Thorn is CIO of Architecting the Enterprise. He has worked in the IT Industry for over 25 years, in a variety of roles, which include; Development and Systems Design, Project Management, Business Analysis, IT Operations, IT Management, IT Strategy, Research and Innovation, IT Governance, Architecture and Service Management (ITIL). He is the Chairman of the itSMF (IT Service Management forum) Swiss chapter and is based in Geneva, Switzerland.