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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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Community comments

  • Oxymoron

    by John Davies,

    Your message is awaiting moderation. Thank you for participating in the discussion.

    I was going to comment with Microsoft+Enterprise=Oxymoron but comments like

    The problem is that businesses are changing more rapidly every day, and IT is getting slower every day.

    speaks for itself.


  • Business perception is that IT is too slow

    by Faisal Waris,

    Your message is awaiting moderation. Thank you for participating in the discussion.

    Where I work, IT has certainly made some strides to streamline processes and to pick up the pace however business still perceives IT to be too slow (and too costly). This perception (of IT being slow) is accentuated by the seemingly rapid pace of web companies (Google, Facebook, etc.) that business sees and that IT cannot match.

    On the other hand, don’t underestimate business. In my experience, business has become quite IT savvy - just by necessity – as implementation of most business strategies requires substantial IT support today. I am not entirely convinced that IT has to “move upstream into business transformation” because that is just not practical. Rather the main objective of IT (including EA) should be to achieve greater agility in support of business strategy.

    I believe that adoption of SOA and Agile methodologies is instrumental and this is where EA can play a strong role. However, a transformational change will come by adopting cloud type environments / application architectures for enterprise applications – so called ‘private clouds’. Ironically, the first concrete step in this direction is Microsoft’s Azure ‘appliance’ as it takes us towards a compute utility-grid type of a model that has long been the holy grail of IT.

  • Is Enterprise Architecture Dying

    by Udayan Banerjee,

    Your message is awaiting moderation. Thank you for participating in the discussion.

    Some time back, there was a very interesting discussion on LinkedIn on the topic "Is Enterprise Architecture Dying".

    Here is a summary of that discussion -

  • Rethink the name - the function is stong and getting stronger

    by mark lane,

    Your message is awaiting moderation. Thank you for participating in the discussion.

    1. The Professional Enterprise Architect
    An enterprise architect is a professional who brings together rational business views with logical blueprints enabling the transformation from business strategy to operational execution.
    Professional enterprise architects address the needs of the public, practice, and the profession. All enterprise architects answer to a higher calling, protecting the public from capricious practices and promoting harmonious societal goals within firms. They strive for consistent practices while recognizing innovation and evolution within enterprise architecture.

    2. Standards of Acceptance for “Professional” Designation
    An enterprise architect must meet minimum standards to be designated a “professional enterprise architect.” This designation enhances the level of public trust in both the enterprise architect and the profession itself. The profession, through a collaborative effort of its various organizations, develops the minimum standards, basing them on the current body of knowledge in enterprise architecture; the characteristics and competencies of current, successful enterprise architects; and input from the public the enterprise architect serves.

    The purpose of setting standards for a “professional” designation is to solidify the career path for enterprise architects, enabling them to stay within the professional ranks at the peak of their careers. The profession grows when enterprise architects continue to grow in their own practices.
    Standards emphasize the characteristics, competencies, level of maturity, and knowledge expected of a professional enterprise architect. These attributes set the enterprise architect apart from other occupations where experiences and behaviors are developed through day-to-day work.

    There is a continuous need for standards assessment. Enterprise architecture has many touch points. As enterprises grow and evolve, the needs of the enterprise with regard to enterprise architecture grow and evolve. In larger enterprises this could well include more than one enterprise architect with each one having differing spans of control, scope of accountability, and levels of responsibility. The standards for what constitutes a “professional enterprise architect” and the idea that some professional enterprise architects may be more mature in their practices than other needs to be addressed. As the profession grows and evolves these definitions also grow and evolve.
    In addition, standards define common roles an enterprise architect plays to provide consistent measures and expectations for each enterprise architect no matter whether they are practicing within a private or a public firm, or a governmental organization.

    The identity of the professional enterprise architect leads to common public expectations that lead to trust. Setting standards for this identity is not limited to the individual, but extends across the profession. Enforcement of the standards occurs through the accreditation and certification process described later in the Guide.

    3. Capabilities of the Professional Enterprise Architect
    The professional enterprise architect uses certain capabilities and duties to bridge the gap between the business model, which focuses on the revenue generating parts of the business, and the operating model, which focuses on production and reducing costs. This ultimately facilitates the alignment of the business, overall.

    Capabilities are the services, skills, and abilities an enterprise architect exposed to the business. They address both the long- and short-term strategic alignment between the business model and the operating model. Enterprise architects use these capabilities—with the help of others, who provide information, input, and work—to generate the necessary deliverables needed to execute their duties.

    Capabilities include:
    • Aligning strategic and operational views of business
    • Driving the technology vision
    • Transforming and automating operations
    • Facilitating and governing organizational change
    • Mitigating risk
    • Overseeing investments
    • Managing the architecture
    • Integrating people, processes, and technology

    The duties of the enterprise architect address how the capabilities are fulfilled and define the accountability of the enterprise architect. The professional enterprise architect requires complete ownership for success.
    Duties include:
    • Planning and policy
    • Strategy and transition
    • Architecture and transformation
    • Technology risk and impact
    • Investment oversight and governance

  • Re: Rethink the name - the function is stong and getting stronger

    by Jean-Jacques Dubray,

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    thank you for you detailed and thoughtful response. One sentence caught my attention:

    The professional enterprise architect [focuses on bridging] the gap between the business model, which focuses on the revenue generating parts of the business, and the operating model, which focuses on production and reducing costs.

    That's a great (and balanced) mission statement. It shows how much an art EA can be and also how much value it can potentially deliver when done right. Finding this balance between the past and the future is incredibly difficult (not to mention convincing other people to achieve that balance). Ultimately EA, it critical to innovation.

    EA would gain a lot of respect if people would keep this fact in mind, not to mention realize it.

  • Re: Rethink the name - the function is stong and getting stronger

    by Faisal Waris,

    Your message is awaiting moderation. Thank you for participating in the discussion.

    Mark, thanks for the comprehensive and enlightening post. I agree that today's large enterprises need such a function.

    Most(all?) EA departments today are under IT. The function you describe needs to be rooted just below the CEO level. I don't believe that IT/EA can function in this capacity (or that 'business' will accept IT/EA in such a capacity).

    This function spans parts of what are traditionally known as Strategy, IT, Operations and Finance.

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