11 years, 6 days ago

What is culture and how does it affect the practice of Enterprise Architecture?

As Architects we often spend countless hours working toward delivering great artifacts, including a future state, current state and roadmap to assist our customers in developing a vision and plan toward transformation or maturity. This work is often completed and finds its place on the CIO’s bookshelf or the Lead Architect’s desk with little action or even a second look. Why is this work not actively embraced by many organizations beyond the IT walls or even within the IT organization?

Don’t misunderstand my position, I believe all of the work completed during an iterative EA process that outputs the artifacts I mentioned above add value, although if the organization is not “culturally” ready to embrace the work and transform then the effort is for not.

Culture is defined in many ways by many scholars, although I find it easiest to define culture as interactions and relationships between members of an organization or unit within that organization. This assumes there is an organizational culture and sub cultures within that organization. With this said, it is important that we as architects focus on the overarching organizational culture to better understand whether our customers are ready for an EA engagement.

Our first priority is to ensure we are engaged with the highest level of sponsorship within the organization. For instance, developing physical architectures with the platform division does not constitute Enterprise Architecture, but rather a Technical Architecture and will only have an effect on that sub culture within the organization. EAs need to ensure they are seated alongside the CIO, CFO, COO or even the Chief Executive to ensure efforts toward cultural transformation can be enabled via strong sponsorship.

In the public sector this can be a difficult task as most executives are focused on business related practices and often see the CIO and vendors as “IT focused.” It is critical for our communication during initial contact to be business focused. Conversations about technology are not held until key items, like capability modeling, guiding principles and governance structures are embraced by the organization as a result of cultural change. Once these cultural elements are embraced and socialized technology decisions will be easily facilitated with little debate or power struggles. Remember, the “sponsor” understands how important organizational transformation is at this point in the evolution and will help sub groups understand the vision. Communication and vision are critical elements at this point in the journey toward transformation.

Once we have commitment from the sponsor it is critical for the sponsor to understand the partnership needed between the EA Team and Executive Team. The EA Team is not chartered with creating mission, vision, strategy etc. but rather with understanding the Executive Team’s goals and objectives for the organization and aligning the technology investments with these goals and objectives. Every investment decision made is a direct representation of how the organization’s culture is manifesting itself physically.