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Enterprise Architecture's Renaissance: Thoughts on a Revived Discipline

Posted by Tim R

Benefits of Enterprise Architecture LeanIX

Have we entered a golden age?  

 

At a glance:

  • To use EA to promote logical technology standards in large-scale organizations plus provide an accessible inventory of digital assets.
  • To use EA to distribute interdepartmental knowledge while offering leadership during major projects.
  • To leverage as many users as possible in the EA process and to maintain and publish a criteria of EA KPIs—just as any other business unit would do for internal operations.

David Torre makes an interesting comparison of Enterprise Architecture in a blog post for Center Mast.

As did early critics of electric power, writes Torre, the value of EA is aggressively doubted by a contingent of enterprises worldwide.

“Homeowners probably rebutted that they got along ‘just fine’ without electricity for many years,” he says. “In many ways, organizations without an Enterprise Architecture practice have a similar mindset today.”

So, what’s influencing these (let me put it politely…) "traditionalists"?

According to Torre, a celebrated thought leader on digital transformation who once presented at LeanIX’s EA Connect Days, an ever-dwindling number of IT professionals still regard EA programs in the following ways:

  • As “IT-centric” and not relevant to business
  • As “outranked” by business counterparts
  • As incapable of communicating with business units

Nothing that today's most progressive IT Architects haven't heard before.

But to be completely fair, EA kinda deserves this reputation...

 

Dealing with the past

For many years it was a framework-heavy and whiteboard-dependent discipline that did not incentivize intelligence sharing in large-scale organizations. Monolithic architectural design tendencies prevailed, and crucial pools of systems data were bewilderingly kept out of the reach of the IT and Business teams needing them the most. Torre plainly demonstrates, however, why those times are changing.

In his view (but in my exaggerated language), it seems that traditional and digitalized organizations alike are finally acknowledging their gluttonous appetites for applications—a heavy diet of short-order IT services drenched in unsustainable technology.

Angry at themselves, they’re now looking up from their dinner plates with thousand-yard-stares and seriously contemplating the following:

  • “Why do we have four different content management systems?!”
  • “Do we have a company-sanctioned instance of AWS? Who manages it?”
  • “Where’s the roadmap for all these interdependent technology initiatives?”
  • “What are all these technology projects going to cost, and what’s our ROI?”
  • “Doesn’t this project conflict with that other project?”
  • “How does this effort align to our current fiscal year strategy? Can’t this wait?”

And this one's the kicker…

  • “Why isn’t anyone looking at all of this holistically?”

Concerns likes these, and variations thereof, is why EA has entered a renaissance of sorts. Torre points out that the practice of EA is no longer seen as “strategic” but rather “practical” and tailor-made for “real world” considerations. He goes on to state the following:

“An Enterprise Architecture practice that produces sound designs enables engineers to focus on implementation versus going back-and-forth on the design itself. A related yet positive side effect of this phenomenon is that EA alleviates contention between factions. When viewed as a relatively neutral third-party, EA can mediate contentious impasses among engineering and business teams. Finally, EA connects the dots between strategy, design, and implementation through both top-down and bottom-up activities which create a continuous, circular feedback loop across all levels of the organization.”

 And he proposes a series of best practices to make it happen—all of which align quite nicely to the ones listed in LeanIX’s “Guide to Succeeding with Enterprise Architecture”.

An In-Depth Guide to Succeeding with Enterprise Architecture [Whitepaper]:  Design the architectures you want—and the ones your company needs. »

 

Seeing Opportunity

As do we at LeanIX, Torre maintains that EA is more than just “compiling pretty diagrams and slide decks”. A growing majority see it is as a toolset for advancing agile behaviours and smarter methods of sharing information—a way of “creating and amending organizational standards” in behemoths of industry incapable of organically doing so themselves.

In particular, he recommends the following:

  • To use EA to maintain a repository of readily-accessible artifacts to an entire organization in a structured, easy-to-consume format.

(An idea that directly parallels LeanIX's Application Inventory.)

  • To leverage the function of EA to offer guidance on all major projects. 

(A principle at the root of LeanIX's collaborative philosophy.)

  • To use EA to maintain and publish EA KPIs—just as any other business unit would do for their internal operations. 

(A user management function that can be achieved via LeanIX's Notification/Survey mechanisms to enforce more reliable data input.)

Yes, all in all, I'd say Torre very much gets the idea of modern EA.

 As always, if you want to discuss any of this in more detail, please just reach out to me via social media or e-mail. Or, better yet, if you want to actually see LeanIX's EA Management Tool in action, just enter some contact information below and we will find a time to schedule a (free) demonstration with an agent. 

 

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