In this modern age, Digital Transformation continues to be a priority for company executives. They know that Artificial Intelligence (AI), Blockchain, Internet of Things (IOT), and Big Data are driving their ability to improve customer experience, stay ahead of the competition and generate business growth. However, with IT teams entrenched in managing day-to-day technology, it is difficult for IT to stay abreast of the strategic discussions occurring at the business level and proactively plan for associated IT upgrades, modifications, or new systems. This disconnect can result in a lagging approach to IT planning especially as business decisions are made in fast-moving agile environments.
To remedy this, companies need a holistic approach that connects business and technology. Enterprise Architecture (EA) is the key to this foundation as it helps companies improve their IT Strategic Planning by helping companies precisely see and understand how IT systems support business objectives. An IT Roadmap that is built on foundational Enterprise Architecture yet designed to realize business outcomes enables a company to assess the impact of change on the existing IT landscape and therefore quickly adjust as needed.
There are four steps to successfully implement an agile IT Strategic Planning using Enterprise Architecture:
1. Plan business capabilities
IT needs to capture the company’s vision, objectives, strategy, and tactics, and then plan the business capabilities that support these transformation objectives. Based on these planned capabilities, an enterprise roadmap can be created that aligns business capabilities with transformation objectives.
To efficiently perform this step, it is recommended that Enterprise Architects engage with the business teams to map current business capabilities and understand how they may evolve.
2. Define the new IT architecture that supports business objectives
As a starting point, map the current IT environment. Then, develop the new IT architecture based on the planned business capabilities. Business capability maps help show what IT resources are required to support business operations as the company evolves to meet new challenges.
Once the target IT architecture has been determined, including applications and technology components, perform a gap analysis to identify individual pieces or segments of the IT environment that can be redesigned, and identify the corresponding IT projects.
As a best practice, Business Architects, System Architects, and Solution Architects should work collaboratively to design the future architecture. This helps to ensure a more complete approach.
3. Manage a portfolio of transformation projects
To support an evolving IT architecture, the IT projects identified in the previous step need to be initiated. They include a business case that explains why the project should be done, how it supports business objectives, the related costs, as well as a timeline and possible risks. Then, projects can be assessed and prioritized based on their alignment to the business objectives and the criteria as defined above.
As a best practice, use an EA tool that has a single repository, so that projects, business and IT concepts are tied together. It allows you to easily perform impact analysis onto the architecture and understand the changes. It is also recommended to perform what-if scenario analysis by combining multiple projects, so that the best mix of projects are prioritized.
4. Build an IT roadmap, monitor progress, and continuously adjust
Once projects have been prioritized, they can be put into a timetable, forming the IT roadmap. With a clear IT roadmap, IT leaders have a comprehensive view of future IT projects and can plan resources and budget accordingly. This will help tighten the link between strategy and project execution while providing support for quickly evolving business strategies.
As projects are executed, monitor progress and KPIs, track business changes, and assess their impact. Then, continuously adjust the roadmap and share it with the teams.
As a best practice, try to balance agile and governance by constantly adjusting the roadmap, but also planning for the long term. It is recommended though, to follow the business cadence: instead of planning on a yearly basis, make IT strategic plans more frequent. In agile environments, quarterly-based plans make the most sense.
In conclusion, Enterprise Architecture helps IT leaders create an agile IT strategic plan by tightening IT systems to the business strategy and quickly assessing the impact of a business change to the IT landscape. The relevant IT projects are easily identified by performing a gap analysis between the current and the future IT landscape that is linked to business objectives. Overall, IT leaders can then make well-informed decisions on future investments and thanks to a business-aligned IT roadmap, they can be frequently updated.
Thank you to Gabriel and Mega for this great contribution!