Enterprise Architecture Supporting the Agile Organization in a World of Continuous Change

By Sonia Gonzales, TOGAF® Standard Product Manager, The Open Group

Organizations need to be resilient and agile to adapt to a market that is changing at a faster pace. Due to the increase in digital technologies available at consumers’ fingertips, organizations need to innovate and get the capabilities needed to support these new digital offerings that customers are demanding in an effective way.

In order to face “the new normal” as a result from COVID-19, the need to adapt and offer sustainable digital experiences and products is no longer an option.

Therefore, for organizations to be able to change, their business and operational models need to cope with this rapid change. To be able to compete and innovate they should be able to react to change, become more customer and product-centric, more efficient, and make the best use of their existing capabilities and new technologies.

However, you cannot change what you cannot understand! The need to have an overall holistic view of your organizational landscape is paramount. Here it is where Enterprise Architecture plays a key role.

Enterprise Architecture is the practice that supports organizations to understand the complexity of their own business components so they can be changed in a consistent way.

Enterprise Architecture (EA) provides a framework for change, linked to both strategic direction and business value. It provides organization views to manage complexity, support continuous change, and keep the adequate level of balance between risk and innovation.

EA is also key to support strategic decision making, to provide guidance and guardrails to IT teams that are focused on agile delivery solutions.

It is clear that for all of these to happen, EA needs to evolve and make a shift to become more customer and business value delivery oriented, to be able to support organizations in a more agile, sustainable way.

The Enterprise Architecture role also needs to shift to become a more internal consultant, working hand in hand across all the different areas in the organization. This makes sure alignment, consistency, and strategic focus are not lost.

For EA to support agility as a practice, architects need to adapt and be able to provide a more “light” slim version and deliver “just enough architecture” in an incremental way, following agile delivery patterns. Also, they should be able to engage and work as a team with the different organizational areas, especially with Agile teams. Architects must support organizational transformation and cultural change, cross cutting all organizational areas.

Enterprise architects must work with Agile teams to provide a high-level organizational view to facilitate the definition of epics and strategy themes that will support the definition of Product backlogs. These will transform later in spring backlogs and user stories to fuel the architectural agile delivery and incremental solution delivery.

For this to be achieved the TOGAF Standard definition of Strategy, Segment, and Capability Architectures is highly useful.

Strategic architectures provide the overall strategic direction that should be designed to evolve as a result of the feedback and experience from agile teams working in the development and deployment of MVPs. Segment architectures are aimed to facilitate the identification of Product Backlogs and also facilitate experimentation and innovation.

Capability architectures allow for a more detailed design supporting agile sprint definition.

Enterprise Architects should be supporting and providing guardrails for solutions agile delivery and deployment. They should also provide the overall view, or the organizational landscape so the different agile teams will be delivering solutions in a consistent and integrated manner, connected with the strategy and therefore with organization objectives.

For EA to fulfil this agile and enterprise agility supporting role, it has to address at least the following:

  • A description of the elements into the organizational area or areas to architect, structure and how they relate to each other. Specifically, how the component will respond to change
  • Strategic alignment and the capabilities to support faster decision making to pursue changes into the organization and support new emerging technologies adoption
  • Impact assessment and applications and platform rationalization
  • Agile governance to become assessors and consultants providing guardrails
  • The ability to deliver architecture incrementally and continuously to deliver “just enough” architecture to guide organizational transformation. For this to be achieved automation is a key consideration as well
  • By having a deep understanding of the business value and criticality of an application, it is easier to rank these applications and determine the best migration and portfolio optimization strategy ( cloud migration strategy for instance)
  • Support Product managers in the identification of Product backlogs and Product roadmaps that will feed Sprint backlogs that will go into the Agile delivery process.

The Open Group Architecture Forum members are working continuously so the TOGAF Standard will support agile and the Agile Enterprise.

Several publications and case studies could be found on The Open Group website. This webinar

Lessons learned from the agile journey at Nationwide Insurance and what it means to Enterprise Architecture – presents a practical real case application of EA for Agile delivery and how they went over different stages to achieve agility.

Shell applied a combined approach to address agility using the TOGAF and ArchiMate® Standards, combined with other practices to also support agile delivery – this case was presented in one of The Open Group virtual events and can be found in here.

Case studies showing EA and agile can also be found in the TOGAF Library. This case study Hybrid Enterprise Architecture Practice for Bi-Modal Delivery, elaborates on the approach adopted by the TDC Group, in collaboration with Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) to adopt an agile architecture development cycle.

There are also other publications like Using Agile Practices in Enterprise Architecture which provides general good practices and techniques to be applied for both EA and Agile to support and leverage each other.

Also, The Open Group launched in September 2020 the Open Agile Architecture™ Standard. This Standard of The Open Group offers an approach to architect at scale with agility. It provides guidance and best practices for Enterprise Architects seeking to transition into Agile and Digital contexts.

Both the TOGAF Standard and the Open Agile Architecture Standard complement each other, providing support for Agile EA delivery and EA supporting the Agile enterprise.

In conclusion, the need for organizations to change and adapt is a challenge that needs to be taken now. Enterprise Architecture and supporting standards such as the TOGAF Standard, the ArchiMate Standard, and the Open Agile Architecture Standard provide a worldwide, universally accepted set of best practices that will help you build the right capabilities to face the new trends and challenges in the world that are changing now faster than ever.

Sonia has more than 25 years of experience as Business and Enterprise Architecture consultant in different fields and industry verticals.  Experience includes Business and Strategy Consultancy as well as Enterprise Architecture and Solutions Consultancy applying different frameworks, best practices and tools. Knowledge and experience as Product Manager specially for digital products.