7 years, 3 months ago

Impacting Business with Enterprise Architecture: What the Future Holds for EA Efforts

Cliché as it may be, I can’t stop myself from turning the page on the calendar of a new year and turning my mind to my personal goals for the year. Naturally, many organizations have a tendency to follow suit.  Bolstered by this spirit of the possible,  organizations begin to envision themselves achieving their goals – to rethink the way their business operates with renewed desire to drive innovation, increase speed to market and dramatically improve customer service.

To bring life to those enterprise aspirations, business and technology leaders should look to 2012 as a year to continue improving their collaborative efforts to achieve business change. There are no indications that the new year will bring any relief from the increasing pace of technology and business change, nor the increasing demands from more educated and socially connected customers. 2011 continued the trend toward business driving IT and 2012 offers the opportunity to make this shift pay off for organizations. Many organizations who are focused on bridging the gap between business and IT groups will achieve far more benefits if they fuse these two groups  into business teams working collaboratively to drive transformations.

So, what does 2012 have in store for EA teams?

In its yearly series, Gartner Inc. recently predicted that many organizations will begin to leverage EA tools to drive business value and impact. According to the report, “Gartner Predicts: Opportunities for EA to Lead Business Transformation in Turbulent Times,” December 1, 2011, Phillip Allega, Betsy Burton, et all. “EA practitioners will begin to shift their focus to begin to think about their role differently and, in many cases, employ a new way of working.” With only 40% of EA programs worldwide reporting to IT, EA’s focus must shift from IT and operations to delivery of demonstrable business value.

As I read through the report, I found the following assumptions particularly interesting.

The managed diversity approach
“By 2015, 25% of Global 1000 organizations will produce cohesive EA artifacts that support the diversity of complex business ecosystems.”

When undergoing a business transformation initiative, organizations must account for global operational diversity. According to the report, “the managed diversity style defines choices or options for what projects or customers can leverage without defining only strict, rigid standards. Managed diversity does not mean that there are no standards, but rather that EA planning achieves a balance between the need for a set of standards that help control costs and the need for a diversity of solutions to increase innovation, business growth and competitive advantage across locations that the organization operates in.”

Properly executed, EA can help organizations achieve the delicate balance of identifying and propagating best practices, maximizing technology investments, ensuring compliance with local regulatory bodies, and risk reduction with the flexibility to adapt business systems to compete in global markets. With flexible but defined guardrails, organizations typically find a significant increased speed in their ability to execute when teams are empowered to leverage the elements they need with the guidance  to avoid critical mistakes.

Working together
“By year-end 2014, 50% of Global 1000 organizations will support EA as a collaborative business and IT effort.”

Successful organizations have already started moving their EA teams  out of IT and into the business. Gartner’s survey results indicate that while 68% of EA programs in the US report to the IT organization this picture is already considerably different worldwide. China, who primarily looks to EA for business transformation initiatives, reports to business leadership 76% of the time. This shift in reporting relationships naturally drives changes in the focus and composition of project teams. The complementary nature of skills, perspectives and insights from enterprise architects and business people  can combine to  produce dramatically better results. Organizations cannot drive business growth without carefully selecting the members of the project team.

I particularly appreciated Gartner’s caution, “do not assume that just because business leaders are collaborating and engaging in EA, the effort will be “business strategy driven.” Executive leadership should be mindful that they have defined a clear business strategy that includes actionable directives to provide the context in which these collaborative teams can drive execution.

Increased focus on the decision process
“Through year-end 2014, 60% of organizations will continue to focus EA on assurance, rather than governance.”

According to the report, there are two key challenges when implementing EA governance: 1) they lack training and critical understanding of the topic, and 2) they focus exclusively on control and assurance. This is a problem because EA practitioners often lack an understanding of how the business uses information to makes business decisions. Quite honestly, it is easier to focus on control and standardization because this space is more comfortable for individuals with a technical background. Increasing collaboration between IT and business can be part of this solution but only if architects dig deeper to understand the decision process, the relative value of investment priorities in the context of the business strategy and which standards provide value to the organization. This level of understanding requires more than collaboration between the groups.  It requires a true respect and commitment to understanding how the organization defines and drives business value and how they can then become a part of driving that change.

What is your take on Gartner’s predictions for EA this year? Do you see your EA team driving or reacting to these predicted trends?  Will this be your year to deliver strategic business value? Leave your comments below and we can discuss.

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