Business Value of a Mature EA Practice
Consolidated views and focus can align and simplify operations to achieve resilience
"If you don't understand the details of your business, you are going to fail."
- Jeff Bezos -
"If you're trying to create a company, it's like baking a cake. You have to have all the ingredients in the right proportion".
– Elon Musk -
Frequent innovation combined with ad-hoc, agile technology implementations and the use of third-party solutions and infrastructures are frequently strived for as a resilience- and economic recovery strategy in our Digital and post-COVID world. In such fast-changing environments, the need for Domain Architects, and specifically Enterprise Architects, are questioned and often removed from budgets.
However, although a series of such small changes may optimize certain operation aspects, the changes may have unanticipated broader and longer-term impacts. As an illustrative example, ad-hoc changes to a house will also impact its aesthetics and the ability of the foundation to support the modified structure.
Apart from the golden thread of focus required from organizations to achieve strategic targets, specific alignments need to exist to achieve optimal performance. Enterprise Architects focus on the alignment between the Business Model and the Operating model, between the different capabilities within the Operating model, and between the different resource types within the Operating model. For instance, such alignments would ensure that each functional unit has the required capacity and technical support to handle its workload and that quality and relevant information flows throughout the organization.
Therefore, Enterprise Architects maintains that system's view of the organization's internal and external environments to plan organizational change and the alignment after such changes. Enterprise Architects can, however, not operate in isolation, especially in large and complex organizations. They need to work in a well-structured and mature "practice" with good collaboration from all areas of the organization.
The sections below discuss the "model/framework" required for such a mature Enterprise Architecture practice.
Business Value of a "MATURE" EA Practice
A mature Enterprise Architecture practice maintains a single (consolidated) system's view of the organization's current and target states. The target state will include all changes required for the business to achieve a resilient, competitive advantage in its external market - whether such changes are strategic or tactical. It understands the impacts of all changes and prioritizes their implementation to minimize operational risk. It guides the execution of changes to ensure operational alignment and performance excellence.
Therefore, it is in a unique position to report to management on the progress towards achieving the defined target operational state.
The figure below provides a summary of achieved business value.
Critical Success Factors
The maturity of an Enterprise Architecture practice depends on its ability to achieve the following critical success factors:
Establish a forum for regular and centralized collaboration with, and communication to, all relevant stakeholders within and external to operations.
Create an accessible repository to store quality and easily accessible artifacts to inform and guide all changes within the organization.
Employ staff with sufficient qualifications, skills, and experience.
Be aware of the requirements to achieve a competitive position in the market based on external conditions such as competitor behaviors, customer requirements, and technology advances.
Use metrics and frameworks with value relevant to management and strategic decision-makers.
Proposed Operating Model
Based on the above requirements for business value and success, the Enterprise Architecture practice needs to perform the functions shown in the figure below.
A mature Enterprise Architecture practice would need the following resources:
A CHIEF ENTERPRISE ARCHITECT with industry-relevant experience in at least 3 of the architecture domains manages the team and carries responsibility for overall delivery. It would be advantageous if this is a strategic thinker with organizational optimization and digital transformation experience.
Various DOMAIN ENTERPRISE ARCHITECTS will lead domain-specific collaboration with relevant operational areas and create and present domain-specific designs and artifacts. Depending on the size and complexity of the business, the appointments should cater to the following domains:
Data and Business Intelligence Architectures
Solution and Integration Architectures
Infrastructure or Technology Architecture
Security and Risk Management Architectures
One or more PROFESSIONALS are required to perform the Governance, Training, and Reporting duties. The number of persons will depend on the operational staff's general skill and experience and the maturity of operating practices.
The research activities need one or more RESEARCH ANALYSTS. The number of persons will depend on the complexity of the organization's business model and the external environment in which it operates. If possible, the various Domain Enterprise Architects should also assist with research in their different domains.
A CONTENT ADMINISTRATOR, fluent in using the architecture modeling tool, will be responsible for creating Architectural artifacts and managing the library of content designed by all architects.
The figure below summarizes all functions with the relevant collaboration partners.
The first three functions, Evaluate, Design, and Guide, are interdependent. Initially, their outputs may not be aligned but will become more so after a few iterations.
The purpose of "EVALUATE" is to obtain a holistic view of the internal environment of the business and therefore requires extensive collaboration with different business stakeholders.
The team must use a formal evaluation framework and get an opinion on at least the following:
The effectiveness of the current operational environment - measured via financial performance and other business analysis reports. It should include metrics such as business growth, customer- and employee satisfaction scores, and many more.
New requirements for operational change - whether strategic or tactical as a result of operational weaknesses.
The "Horizontal" alignment in operations would be top-down to identify the alignment of tactical goals with the relevant strategy, and bottom-up to determine if management has adequate information to do root cause analysis of operational issues.
A "Vertical" alignment exercise measures the ability of operational units to perform the workloads allocated to them in timeframes expected by the teams responsible for the next processing step. Issues such as non-business fit technology solutions become clear during such an evaluation.
As simplicity is a crucial requirement for agility and resilience, it is essential to measure the complexity of each of the architecture domains. Examples of complexities are operational silos resulting in duplicated functional activities and technology solutions; legacy products maintained for the advantage of a select few customers; legacy solutions and infrastructure maintained within the environment; and solution customizations created because of business rules not aligned throughout the business.
It is also imperative to do a trend analysis on the changes implemented over the last few years. The relevant success and failures can indicate the understanding of the environment to be changed (and therefore the relevant impacts), the size and type of solutions and mechanisms most successfully implemented, and much more.
The architecture repository is updated with a consolidated and interpreted summary of all evaluation findings.
This function is responsible for creating all the practice's artifacts and designing holistic solutions based on the evaluations described above.
Artifacts such as as-is and to-be (target state) views, decision-making principles, architectural standards, and standard operating procedures form the basis of the architectural guidance provided to the business.
Designing holistic solutions incorporates the following steps:
Create Solution scenarios in collaboration with the various stakeholders, after which each of the scenarios is analyzed for effort, impact, longevity, and success criteria.
Select the most suitable solutions via cost /benefit analysis. Documented decisions are approved by management and communicated to all stakeholders.
Update the document repository with the chosen to-be architecture views.
3. GUIDE, GOVERN & TRAIN
This function is responsible for ensuring all changes implemented within the business are aligned to the approved to-be (target state) architecture view. Examples of activities are:
Project scheduling assistance includes creating "Critical Path" diagrams based on the impact studies and resource availabilities.
Evaluate and approve detailed solution designs in the Architecture Forum before project kick-offs.
Review and approve proof-of-concept exercises created for the testing of new technologies or business innovations within the organization.
Schedule training sessions with solution architects and other relevant staff to ensure that the team understands the guiding artifacts and the roadmap to achieving the to-be architecture.
Provide architecture guidance throughout the development phases, and check test results before solution implementation.
Manage a deviation (exception) process for changes that don't comply with the architecture standards, but which is essential for resolving urgent operational issues.
The Enterprise Architecture practice is responsible for providing lead (proactive) indicator statuses to business leaders. Examples of such indicators are:
Progress on achieving the to-be architecture.
Impacts of changes already implemented with considerations for the next strategic planning cycle
The function researches new business and operating model practices in collaboration with other research initiatives within the organization. Business model research could include new pricing practices, value-added practices such as platform collaborations, and many more. Operating Model research could consist of views on the hierarchical and silo-based operational structures and then the use of new technologies within and outside the industry.
The above analysis provides an overview of functions to be performed by a mature Enterprise Architecture practice. However, when starting an Enterprise Architecture practice, it may be helpful to focus efforts on a subset of functions for delivery. Only relevant staff can then be employed, allowing the practice to grow and mature over time.
Organization Optimization Architect and Digital Strategist