When establishing (or indeed re-establishing) a brand new Enterprise Architecture function within an organisation there are perhaps two main approaches:

  • A big bang approach
  • A gradual iterative incremental approach

I favour the big bang approach. This is for several reasons:

1) a big bang send a clear and confident message to everyone in the organisation that things WILL be done differently

2) a big bang provides a clear mandate, mission, vision and positioning for the Enterprise Architects, sidetracking threats and challenges from others who feel threatened by the emergence of EA

3) a big bang ensures that the Enterprise Architecture function is given a solid budget and is established through a strategic change programme, complete with programme manager

4) a big bang has clear reporting to the CEO or appropriate C-level executive (since responsibilities vary from company to company) and clearly defined outcomes

5) a big bang needs clearly visible and continuous [sic] executive support

6) a big bang must have clear goals, objectives, measures, performance targets etc. Enterprise Architecture must be part of the business strategy to improve the organisation’s effectiveness and profitability.

7) a big bang ensures that proper effort is made choosing an appropriate EA framework, Meta Model, Process and EA tool

8) a big bang is JFDI on a large scale – get the whips and carrots out and get it done right first time ! Make it So !

Don’t get me wrong, iterative approaches do work well with established processes such as software development, but not for the introduction of new functions and processes that haven’t previously existed.

Establishing an EA function in small iterations is giving ammunition to challengers and doubters. There tends to be no mandate, no or limited budget, a quick and dirty mindset, limited access to experienced consultants, no EA tools, overall limited maturity.

It sends a message to the staff that the executive management is not sure, is not confident, and won’t invest in the success of Enterprise Architecture.

It’s a bit like changing governments, you don’t do that iteratively do you?

As Niccolo Machiavelli once said ‘Tardiness often robs us (of) opportunity, and the dispatch of our forces’.


There are still organisations that have not yet established an Enterprise Architecture function.
A simplistic and immature view of the Enterprise Architecture function is that it is only used to create a target architecture model for the IS/IT architectures that enable the IS/IT Strategies, create IS/IT roadmaps, and generally act as a Technical Design Authority for solution development projects.

But is this all that the Enterprise Architecture function is used for?

No, Enterprise Architecture also is a key enabler for decision making, what if analysis, gap analysis and answering the question “What business problem are we solving?”.describe the image

For the C-level executives in an organisation there just is not enough detail available to answer their questions, so they often appear to look for simple and quick answers to difficult and complex problems. This is not usually good decision making.

Business users frequently think of their business strategy in terms of decisions about technical solutions.

Are business users best placed to make these technical decisions?

They need to think about what their needs are how and think in terms of what business capabilities they need before rushing to ‘solutioning’.

There is a need for thinking and decision frameworks to help c-level executives and business leaders make their decisions.

What then, is a thinking and decision framework?

Decisions are made at every level across an organisation about:

  • New Investments or business as usual changes
  • Formal or Informal changes
  • Tactical or Strategic changes
  • Secret or well known changes
  • Business or IS/IT changes

But does anyone actually know all the decisions that are being made in an organisation?

Questions are often asked within organisations at all levels:

  • What decisions are IS/IT making?
  • What decisions Business are making?
  • Who should make decisions anyway?
  • What decisions have been made?
  • What if I don’t like the decision?
  • Are the decisions still valid?
  • Do I need to comply with the decision anyway?

Is the right decision being made – How would we know?

Are decisions being made without thinking, evaluation, pilot studies, use of facts etc?

Frequently this appears to be the case!

What makes better decision making?

  • Business intelligence
  • System thinking / System Dynamics
  • Management models such as Porter’s Five Forces
  • Thinking frameworks such as VPEC-T

What about using Enterprise Architecture helping to improve decision making?

Do you remember the mantra of ‘IT Enabled Business Change’ often used by government departments?

Shouldn’t this now be a new mantra of ‘EA Enabled Strategic Change’?

Remember, ‘When technology leads, it’s not enterprise architecture’!

Enterprise Architects are strategic assets, organisations should use them as such, at a corporate level, to support better decision making and for creating a solid foundation for the execution of the business strategies?

Existing policy making or decision making processes need to be adapted to make use of the Enterprise Architecture function, and most business change should be viewed as EA-enabled strategic change.

We are used to the idea that Enterprise Architecture function establishes an EA Governance process, an Enterprise Architecture Review Board and an EA Compliance process to guide the activities and deliverables of solution architects.

With the introduction of an Enterprise Architecture function there needs to be changes in the decision making roles and responsibilities at all levels.

The top business managers and executives will still make the strategic decisions for the enterprise and guide and plan the business structuring, but will now make decisions with a different level of abstraction and in a different way supported by the Enterprise Architecture function.

The Enterprise Architecture function will help with business decisions such as:

  • Business strategy decisions on transformations, mergers/acquisitions etc.
  • Business model decisions on customer segments, new products and business services
  • Target operating model decisions on business capabilities
  • Strategic changes and initiatives.

The Enterprise Architecture function can directly make independent decisions about:

  • IS/IT Strategy (supporting the CIO)
  • Target Enterprise Architecture model and Enterprise building blocks

The Enterprise Architecture function also supports and guides IS decisions about Solution building blocks, IT decisions about Technology and Operational decisions about Infrastructure upgrades etc.

As well as developing and maintaining the Enterprise Architecture models, the Enterprise Architecture function can keep track of the RACI for decisions, and maintain a decision log (typically owned by the Enterprise Architecture Review Board) and publish these on the Enterprise Architecture web site and other deliverables.

As Plato said, ‘A good decision is based on knowledge not [just] numbers’, and the Enterprise Architecture provides just that knowledge base.

This changes the way business strategy and strategic change are approached and increases their benefits.

As Jay Forrester said in his paper, Designing the Future, “Organizations built by committee and intuition perform no better than would an airplane built by the same methods… As in a bad airplane design, which no pilot can fly successfully, such badly designed corporations lie beyond the capability of real-life managers.”

Organisations without a real strategic Enterprise Architecture function are just like those ‘organisations build by committee and intuition’.

EnterpriseArchitects.com helps those involved in strategic change to truly understand the issues and concerns and become more successful in building a better ‘enterprise’.

Join the Enterprise Architect community

This post is also available at http://tinyurl.com/253zsth

What does agile mean?

Mostly the interpretation is that it means doing the work in an iterative and incremental fashion, so that each new iteration can be flexible enough to rapidly react to constant change.

This is a good approach that should be taken regardless of whether one is doing enterprise architecture or solution development.

Other interpretations is that agile means development without architecture or analysis, where the design only meets the current set of known requirements and the solution being developed must be refactored when the requirements change.

This is good for development but not so good for long term strategic planning of enterprise architecture.

Terry Blevins has made some important insights in at the Briefings Direct blog

Enterprise Architecture exists to support the decisions that are made every day in an organisation.
Enterprise Architecture helps to really understand the decisions that need to be made and to ensure that the decisions are made based on the facts.
Each iteration of the enterprise architecture processes needs to be aligned to the speed at which an organisation needs to make decisions.

In this way enterprise architecture be made agile. At the enterprise level, it’s not about agile development but agile decision making.

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