Enterprise Architecture provides an engine to identify where tweaks & amendments need to be made in order to provide valid and coherent IT systems, process and infrastructure that supports business operations.
One of the difficulties facing Programme Support staff in their daily work is to identify where in a Portfolio there are gaps and overlaps in systems. They need to identify the issues, risks, conflicts and bottlenecks that need to be resolved for assured business continuity. Enterprise Architecture is an investment in time in the initial stages, which pays back within 4 months by enabling savings in maintenance and IT projects. For example, if it can only identify one duplication in systems functionality, that can save the cost of purchasing a new system by adjusting the functional support in one and enabling the removal of a redundant duplicate system.
Thinking of the erstwhile O2 Netherlands, where new systems were procured in order to meet new functionality, the organisation ended up with an onion layer of systems that they dared not remove in case the system was providing critical functionality to support operations and deliver customer service. There was no business tolerance for the mobile phone network going down for more than a few seconds. Thus by using a logical enterprise architecture, they were able to profile the key business processes and understand which functions provided by systems were directly supporting operations. A further step in the investigation identified the infrastructure systems that were supporting these operational systems and identified where there was a functional overlap in order to identify candidates for removal.
The cost of creating the operational enterprise architecture was a fraction of the cost of lossed revenues if they had tried to manually, without any blueprints, tried to switch off systems in a trial-and-error high risk activity. To their credit, O2NL was not about to try a new unproven method. They had surveyed their industry and found that Sprint Telecoms in the US had engaged this approach and had reported great successes. In fact, they claimed that it enabled them to take control of the future of their own systems and as they built up a renewed enterprise framework they had the insight to make decisions on how they wanted to grow and change strategic direction. In a nutshell, this enabled them to claim that they had an agile infrastructure.
There are many organisations that wished that they had maintained their blueprints of enterprise and infrastructure frameworks. However, developing a blueprint is not a high risk exercise and once the models have been built in a coherent repository, the benefit of understanding interdependencies is invaluable for operations as well as the development of the infrastructures.