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Is it Time to Rethink Enterprise Architecture?

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Gabriel Morgan leads the Enterprise Strategic Planning team at Microsoft which focuses on aligning IT and the Business. The team's goal is to identify an optimal set of IT Programs to invest in.

Like most EA teams, we’ve had our ups and downs and experiences leveraging various Enterprise Architecture Frameworks, methods, disciplines, etc. Like you, over the years we’ve learned what works and what to avoid.

In his latest post, Gabriel shares his experience and the changes they made:

Assuming a primary goal of EA is to align IT to the Business, the problem is that most, if not all, EA Frameworks are not equipped to actually deliver on this goal. They are limited to drawing associations from IT things (eg IT Projects, Applications, Platforms, IT People/Role, Infrastructure) to Business things (eg Business Initiatives, Business Goals, Business Capabilities, Business Processes, and Operating Models). [...] At best they only capture how IT ‘relates’ to the Business. That is, these EA Frameworks and methods are more about IT transparency, not alignment.

This set of observations lead him to the conclusion that:

The problem is that businesses are changing more rapidly every day, and IT is getting slower every day. Unfortunately, no amount of ‘relating’ IT to the business will actually bring better alignment.

In addition, the business does not have complete clarity on its strategy, not to mention the inevitable gaps, overlaps or conflicts between different business silos.

He also notes:

to make things a little more scary, cloud computing allows the Businesses to on-board possibly VERY inappropriate enterprise software in a matter of minutes, things are going to get worse.

Based on these observations, the ESP team decided to:

  • focus on company transformation to assist the company deliver on strategic goals, and provide traceability to IT investments
  • adopt business management concepts in an attempt to build a stronger understanding of how businesses are managed and incorporate them into our EA methods and tools

Here is a short list of best practices in business strategy management and business initiative portfolio management  his team has started to adopt:

Michael Porter’s 5 Forces plus + Brandenburger and Nalebuff’s Sixth Force (Complementors)

Kaplan and Norton’s Office of Strategy Management and Balanced Scorecard

Alex Osterwalder’s Business Model

Geoffrey Moore’s “Core versus Context”

Gabriel explains that EA should not own Business Functions focused on company transformation.  It should rather educate and help establish these business functions with the right ownership:

For example, in our organization, we are in the process of establishing a team that will function similarly to Kaplan and Norton’s Office of Strategy Management. We took the initiative to educate the organization on the purpose and need for existence, then helped find the rightful owner and gain their commitment to implement it. EA merely has a seat at the team’s table to do our part in the new function, which usually requires us to deliver consistent models across the company for impact analysis.

He concludes that:

Adopting Strategy Management and Portfolio Management into your Enterprise Architecture function, coupled with the onus for an EA team to help the organizations build organizational functions that need to exist to deliver on enterprise-wide transformation is [a] breakthrough.

Where is the future of EA? In the minutia of models and relationships? Moving upstream into enterprise transformation? Or is EA inherently trying to solve the impossible problem of constantly reengineering legacy assets while adopting new technologies?

How does your EA organization fare in bringing agility and visibility to the business? 

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