As Enterprise Architecture (EA) function grows increasingly important, organizations need to understand that delivering highly coordinated and efficiently designed architecture structures, standards, and policies is essential to ensure success. The group has to ensure that the following best functions are understood and acted upon by enterprise stakeholders. In doing so, EA function will provide opportunities for greater success.
Valid EA needs to be linked to and support the business. The capability of the architecture needs to reflect the required business capability. Too often, architecture is built by technologists for technologists, and does not necessarily reflect what is required by the business. The result may reflect an over-investment in IT, hoping to support any potential business decision, or a solution that is not correctly focused and inhibits business progress. EA must be driven by the business if it is going to support the business.
The key architecture drivers define what EA must achieve in order to be successful and support the business. These drivers convey the business needs and priorities to the IT community and relate the value of the architecture to the business. They are typically broad, high-level statements of business objectives, which can be met through the implementation of EA and its associated management processes. Each driver is stated in a simple, precise manner that is direct and easy for all to understand and remember, accompanied by a paragraph or two of details. Assumptions are made for areas where the general objective, requirement, and/or driver is known but cannot be clearly articulated. Making assumptions allows the work to continue, until these assumptions can be reviewed and resolved.
The key architecture drivers will be based on the required business and IT capabilities. The focus should not be used to build or define these capabilities, but to use them as input. A starter set of capability statements will include:
- Competitive business advantage capabilities
- Adaptation to the technology marketplace
- Business strategy and drivers
- IT capabilities and future IT vision
Below is a sample set of questions, by no means complete, that may help to understand potential business and IT requirements:
- Is there evidence that the business may enter new global markets? How will this change the IT architecture requirements?
- Will there be natural growth or the acquisition/merger of other businesses and their IT systems?
- What is the expected growth of the business? How will this affect the IT systems?
- What are the significant business requirements? (e.g. CRM, SCM, etc.)
- What is the IT value that the customer will see directly from the systems and services?
- What key characteristics of the IT systems are important to the customers? (Accuracy, response times, resilience, availability etc.)
- In what ways can IT provide the business with a competitive edge?
- What are the most important features that IT systems should incorporate to enable staff to improve productivity and effectiveness? (e.g., single sign-on, mobility, email-enabled applications)
- Are there any aspects of current IT services and support that constrain business growth? (service levels, availability, planning processes, time to market for new systems)
- What are the implications of all existing (and potential) risk and regulatory requirements for IT architecture? What should be considered?
- How do we get a full picture of customer activities?
- What are the ground rules for exceptions/exclusions from the IT architecture that could benefit the sharing of common processes, resources, and information?
- What are ITs principal strengths in terms of the way in which it currently supports business needs?
- What are the key areas of improvement for IT to support the needs of the business?
To help answer the questions listed above, the following is a sample of the key architecture drivers that can be used to guide EA function within an organization:
- The architecture must support enhanced business flexibility and growth Adherence to a well-defined architectural model, with documented variances where required, will allow for the timelier, thorough, and accurate assessment of the impact of a change. This will lead to the ability to re-deploy IT assets more quickly to accommodate changes in business direction or to support rapid business growth.
- The architecture should enable more rapid and consistent technology decisions An agreed set of technology principles and evaluation criteria should reduce the subjectivity of many technical decisions, reduce the time required for each decision, and improve the quality and consistency of such decisions. More consistent technology decisions and functions will lead to the better leveraging of investments in technology and the achievement of a higher level of interoperability among independent systems.
- The architecture must enable enhanced problem and change management functions The ability to carry out more accurate and timely assessments of change should also provide for fewer unanticipated problems and provide a more stable environment and higher service levels in the face of continuous change and growth.
- The architecture must provide enhanced connectivity among systems and between both internal and external organizations Through the definition and use of standard interfaces specified in the architecture, connectivity between systems and organizations should become significantly more achievable. As new connectivity requirements or new communication technologies arise, the architecture will allow for the faster and more accurate assessment of feasibility and desirability.
- The architecture must provide more cost-effective IT deployment With the increased complexity and interrelationship of components in distributed IT solutions, the number of components from which solutions are created must be maintained at a manageable level. Selecting a set of common components to meet common requirements will reduce implementation and ongoing support costs, decrease the time to implement common solutions, and improve the overall effectiveness of IT deployment. The adoption of common technology evaluation criteria will also contribute to more consistent and cost-effective technology decisions.
- The architecture must enable the leveraging of IT assets across development efforts Enabling the architecture involves defining common modules of functionality with common, well-defined solutions so that new development efforts will be able to leverage this modularity and reuse more existing functionality than has been possible in the past. Also, adherence to the IT architecture in developing systems and making platform decisions should lead to more homogeneous environments and make the widespread sharing of application systems, data, management processes and resources more achievable.
To achieve the aforementioned objectives, the organization, function, and architects have to follow certain mandates to deliver the architecture.
The organization has to:
- Appoint and empower corporate IT and business managers who understand, support, and enforce the architecture.
- Adopt an EA investment portfolio approach with supporting processes to ensure ongoing unified architecture management.
- Develop a culture where intellectual capital reuse is a standard to support the evolution of the architecture at the tactical and enterprise level.
- Ensure future EA updates have direct business area involvement and the updated process is not adversely influenced by major shifts in IT service delivery and strategy within the organization.
- Determine an appropriate architectural framework (Zachman, The Open Group Architecture Framework [TOGAF], etc.) to guide the organizations development of the EA.
EA function has to:
- Publish the EA and make it available across the organization.
- Develop a communications plan to insure business and Information Services (IS) stakeholders adopt the defined architecture standards, guidelines, and policies.
- Establish effective communication to the business areas to ensure that there is a broad understanding of EA benefits and requirements outside of IS.
- Assign appropriate architecture components to architecture owners with the objective of ensuring that EA is regularly updated and in compliance with adopted standards.
- Implement appropriate metrics to regularly track and assess the success of the architecture.
- Integrate the architecture governance processes with project management office processes and procedures to ensure the appropriate checkpoints of the architecture are adhered to and formalized.
- Implement a Technology Management Function so that new and emerging technology can be incorporated into the architecture and effectively utilized to enhance business operations and reduce costs.
- Integrate EA into all aspects of the IS organization so that the advantages of a comprehensive architecture can be maximized.
- Plan the implementation of an EA tool to facilitate updating, modelling, and publishing the EA.
- Plan for the use of an EA tool integrated with Project Management support capability so that solution architects can have automated access to EA standards and processes, planners can have online access to EA impact analyses, and projects can automatically update the EA information about current implementation and transition gaps.
Enterprise Architects have to:
- Receive senior management commitment and support for the perpetual management of the EA.
- Elevate the importance of improving the organizations business process maturity to support the EA and its enabling projects.
- Actively participate in standards organizations that address issues of concern to the business to ensure that new industry standards can be utilized without serious problems.
- Actively participate in professional organizations that address EA as part of their scope to obtain information on new developments that will arise.
- Produce a set of design drawings, and possibly models, to aid in visualizing the final design.
The architecture must be capable of being maintained, communicated, and enforced across the enterprise. By formalizing the development and communication of the IT Strategy, Architectural Principles, and Standards to the business units, the EA will become an integral part of the IT management process. It will define an architectural model of the IT infrastructure that will improve our understanding of installed and planned systems and how they interact with each other in the support of users. By providing a repository for architectural information, this document should improve the common understanding of many IT issues among the various decision-making entities, and improve the buy-in of the many groups involved in each IT investment decision.
Mr. Ganesh Seetharaman is Head of IT Group Services heading Enterprise Architecture, Project Delivery and Business systems focus area for an Insurance group in U.K. His diverse background experience (16 years) spans planning and executing business and IT strategies across multiple industries. Mr. Ganesh's main area of expertise is analyzing business operations and recommending leading edge technology solutions for improving processes, enhancing productivity and reducing expenditure. He has earned a postgraduate degree in Information Sciences from the Kennedy Western University, specializing in Data management, Operations and Strategy that include Information Architecture, Usability Studies, System Design, and planning.
Submitted By: Ganesh Seetharaman
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