The purpose of Enterprise Architecture
10 January 2012
I’m often confronted by solution architects, IT and technical architects who don’t understand what Enterprise Architecture is all about. They usually misinterpret enterprise architecture from their own perspective as some kind of system design of ‘enterprise’ scale IS/IT systems and become frustrated when they discover that it is really something else. It often turns out that they are not usually working at the right level or with the right stakeholders in their organisation to be true enterprise architects. They are not working with the leadership team but within the scope of a small development project.
They can’t therefore see the wood (the ‘Enterprise’) for the trees (a project), let alone the helicopter view…
Enterprise architecture is in reality one of the most powerful management approaches that can be used by an organisation. It is not intended to be used (only) at a solution or project level but for the big decisions that an organisation’s leadership team have to make. The leadership (i.e. the C-level executives, and heads of divisions etc.) have to make the decisions based on the facts and knowledge base (the Enterprise Architecture repository) delivered by the enterprise architecture function. Those decisions are supported by the enterprise architecture function planning their execution in the EA roadmap. Each initiative in the EA roadmap is typically a new or changed Capability or Capability Increment (see MODAF and http://www.mod.uk/NR/rdonlyres/E43D93F6-6F43-4382-86BD-4C3B203F4AC6/0/20090217_CreatingCapabilityArchitectures_V1_0_U.pdf).
Typically the focus of Enterprise Architecture is on:
- Increasing the return on business and IT investments by more closely aligning them with business needs.
- Identifying areas for consolidating and reducing costs
- Improving executive decision making
- Increasing the benefits from innovation
- Delivering strategic change initiatives
- Managing business transformation activities
The Enterprise Architecture is also characterised across the following multiple dimensions:
- Direction: Enterprise Architecture is focused on strategic planning (i.e. business transformation, strategic change programmes) and not on operational change (i.e. run the business, six sigma, lean processes)
- Scope: Enterprise Architecture is focused on the whole of the business (i.e. the Business Model and Business Operating Model) for all business and IS/IT functions, and not just on the IS/IT components.
- Timeline: Enterprise Architecture is focused on the long term view of the future scenarios (up to 3/5 years in the future) and not just on a short term view of current state. Enterprise Architecture is focused on a roadmap of changes to an organisation’s capabilities.
- Value Chain: Enterprise Architecture is focused on the whole of the enterprise (i.e. the extended organization and value chain) and not just on the scope of a delivery project
- Stakeholders: Enterprise Architecture is focused on the needs and concerns of the C-level executives (CEO, CIO, COO etc.), business executives, corporate and business strategists, investors, strategic planners.
(ps. I tried to draw a diagram to illustrate where Enterprise Architecture lies on these dimensions but couldn’t visualise a multi-dimensional space…)
So overall, the primary purpose of Enterprise Architecture is to support strategic change such as :
- The introduction of new customer and supplier channels such as eCommerce
- The consolidation of the existing portfolio of people, processes, application and infrastructure etc.
- The reduction of costs and risks, ensuring the enterprise will remain viable and profitable
- The design of a new organisation, business model and business operating model.
- The due diligence for mergers and acquisitions and management of the resulting integration programme.
- The development of smarter and more effective systems (not just IT systems).
- The introduction of shared services and applications.
- The introduction of new technology, platforms and infrastructure such as SaaS, Cloud etc.
- The introduction of regulatory and legal changes such as Basel 3
In my future blog entries I will explore how Enterprise Architecture supports some of these areas.
The first one will be about how Enterprise Architecture is used to support Due Diligence activities prior to mergers and acquisitions.