January 29, 2009

The value of enterprise architecture

One of the recurring topics among architects seems to be: what is the value of enterprise architecture (EA)? Why do we do what we do, and how do we add value to the firm? Several books have been released on this subject as well as some interesting scientific papers.  I have just read this interesting blogpost on the same topic. 

One of the things that I like about the post is the fact that architecture is considered to be "not just about IT" as the author takes a holistic perspective of the enterprise. It seems to me that Europe most practitioners also claim to have this holistic view, even though in practice most focus solely on technology (see also the post by Klasien de Wilde). Another interesting point about this blogpost is the observation that the value of EA depends on what you actually do with EA in a given organization. I concur that different organizations seem to have different goals for their architectural efforts. Unfortunately, in my opinion, the focus in the post is too much on architecture documentation. Still a good read, in my opinion.

January 26, 2009

Strategic value of EA

Strategy is about tuning your organization to its environment, so that it adequately responds to its clients requirements and competitors. It is about defining the right value proposition and organizing the internal resources to deliver this in an optimum way. It is realizing the most favorable tuning of people, process, technology, material, information and other assets.

This alignment with the environment brings, when done the right way, a competitive edge, but is often a difficult process. To translate strategy into effective operations demands insight and hard work.

As for insight, there Enterprise Architecture can bring some value. Enterprise architecture (EA) is about the design of a holistic multidimensional perspective of the entire organization (or preferably the operational ecosystem). Its purpose is to align strategy to operations and the business to IT.

It is therefore an excellent instrument to use if an organizational transformation is needed. It supports the direction of the change and subsequently the solution design for implementation.

And although the roots of EA lie in the IT world, for some time now the understanding that it has great value to the business is accepted in many organizations. A fundamental shift from information technology (IT) to business technology (BT) is occurring. Technology is embedded in the business, recognized as indispensable, and managed as a shared and strategic capability (Forrester).
The business is IT, IT is the Business, as the majority of the processes and company data are supported by Information Systems.

Why is it though, that this is not yet a widely accepted practice? Some orgnisations, with the aid of an experienced Enterprise Architect, the gap between Strategy and Enterprise Architecture is bridged. It is however not yet common practice in this field. This must change.

So for all industry analysts and consultants that see the importance and usability of EA in the field of Strategy and Business Transformation, I call upon you to ‘spread the word’.
It would certainly help to show successful examples; for example organizations with separate business analysis and IT architecture departments that have understood that an holistic approach will bring more value. I welcome any example.

January 13, 2009

Transforming the organization

A while ago I have read the new book by Martin Op't Land et al., titled "Enterprise Architecture - creating value by informed governance" (see e.g., here). One of my favorit aspects of this book is the fact that it combines theory and practical results. For example, on p.23 it lists 7 key applications of enterprise architecture:
  1. investigate problems/shortcomings in a preexisting situation
  2. express the future direction of an enterprise
  3. identify key problems, challenges, issues, etc. as well as make well-motivated design decisions that enable a move from the existing situation into a desired strategic direction
  4. provide boundaries and identify pleateaus for the transformation of the enterprise twoard the articulated strategic direction
  5. give a clear context and direction for a portfolio of projects working toward the realization of the next plateau
  6. select one or more standard solutions and/or packages that are to b ecome part of the solution
  7. create the high level design of an actual step in the enterprise transformation as it will be realized in the context of a specific project
With reference to the work of de Leeuw, archtiecture is positioned as a governance instrument in transforming the organization. Interestingly, a lot has been written on business transformation, organizational transformation and so on. Roel Meijers suggested that the work of Gouillart and Kelly called "transforming the organization" would be a good starting point. I must say that the core approach (illustrated by the figure below) seems promising from a transformation point of view. I'm not yet convinced that it makes sense from the point of view of strategic management, though.

The analogy between a business system and a biological system is interesting and works well in an educational setting. One of my concerns with the proposed approach is the linear nature of the phases reframe, restructure, revitalize, and renew as I believe that these 'phases' are more iterative in nature. All in all, the book is highly recommended.

I still haven't figured out what 'business transformation' is, though. It seems to me that strategists and architects have a different opinion on this. I am preparing a more elaborate posting on this, so stay tuned.

January 4, 2009

Down under

I recently started a discussion on one of the linkedin groups, regarding the sometimes troublesome relation between architects and strategists in organizations. The tension between these groups seems to be similar to the 'classic' tension between business and IT. One of the people participating in the discussion was Tom Graves from Australia (personal weblog can be found here).

He wrote several books on enterprise architecture (EA) which I have briefly explored. They provide an interesting perspective on true enterprise-wide architecture and are definately different from most books that I've read on the topic so far. I can highly recommend them, particularly since they provide practical hands-on advice on how to get started with EA in practice.

(P.S. Hopefully Tom will write a short post for this weblog on his thoughts on EA / strategy soon)