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Lean Enterprise Architecture Management (EAM) – The low-hanging fruits on the way to digital excellence

Posted by Ruth Reinicke
In our series of blog posts on the role of lean EAM on the way to digital transformation, today's post looks at the low hanging fruits waiting to be picked. The way to digital excellence is long and tedious, as organizational priorities, culture and politics must not be overlooked. One key recommendation is to regard the introduction of a lean EAM as a change management project. However don’t assume you will be able to address the entire change in one big-bang, but be prepared for an iterative, evolutionary approach. There are three main messages from change management experience that are inevitable:
  • Build strong, lasting coalitions.
  • Focus on business value early on.
  • Don’t condemn change - embrace it.
The classic change process works in phases. Understand that you need your early adopters to become the majority, and understand that the change is not persistent until it has reached at least some of the laggards. Your role as an EA is to change the mindset of people.

In order to climb this mountain, there is no alternative than to create business value early on. Sustainable coalitions are built on tangible successes. Otherwise, organizational priorities and politics will become insurmountable obstacles.

And finally, be prepared that things will change. People leave companies, technology becomes obsolete. Do you really believe that a five-year plan can help you?

The low hanging fruits on the way to digital excellence are typically the following:

1. What applications matter most for the business and how are they changing?

Talk to an architect about this question and he will answer: What is the definition of applications? What is the business? In order not to lose too much time here, find the right people in the business who can answer this question. Use their view on the IT as a starting point, and find a simple model to create transparency on this view. This is where the business support matrix comes in extremely handy.

Once you have gathered a first understanding of the business view on the IT applications, you will be able to come up with a first shot of user group and business capability classification. Add a high-level assessment of the business criticality, the functional fit and the technical fit of the application, and you get an invaluable communication instrument for both business and IT to spot improvement opportunities at a glance.

 

A business support matrix helps you achieve a transparent overview of your IT landscape
A business support matrix helps you achieve a transparent overview of your IT landscape

2. Free your head of operational issues.

You know the reality of IT landscapes. Every time you start dealing with strategic projects, an operational question distracts your attention.
OS updates, urgent business support requests from an unknown group, technological emergencies or urgent projects to cut costs by removing redundancies are only a few examples that every EA knows too well. Escape the rat race by identifying these issues proactively before they can distract you. Let us look at the examples above:

OS or major database updates distract you because you don’t know which applications are affected. Once you figured out for your top business applications what major technology they rely on - don’t go into any detail here - you can make decisions proactively instead.

Urgent requests of business support typically hit you from the blue. Again, you can take the driver seat once you have compiled your business support matrix. Look at white spots and talk to the business how critical they are. In particular, try to get an assessment from your business, which user groups and capabilities are most important, and focus on the related white spots.
You can deal with typical cost-cutting requests in a similar manner. All the information you require is in the business support matrix. Just identify the low-hanging cost savings before somebody else does.

 

Digital Transformation: A Case for Lean Enterprise Architecture Management
 

3. Know your business data.

They say “data is the new oil”. When you have identified the major applications, the most urgent improvements and managed to get ahead of operational worries, it is time to focus on data and how it drives your business. Typically, this occurs at two different levels of granularity.
At business level, it is of major importance to focus on the key data objects that drive the business. Typically, all you need is a set of 10-20 data objects, dependent on your domain, to get started. With such a basic set you can already answer questions:
  • Which applications have access to certain data and which do not? Why?
  • Which is my classified information, and which can be moved easily to a cloud vendor?
  • Where can I get the information from that my data analytics specialists should take a look at?
At a lower level, another granularity could be required:
  • Where do I get the service that I need, in which protocol?
  • Who is affected by our API change?
It cannot be reinforced too much that all that matters are the needs of your stakeholders. Identify them, focus on their business value, and they will form the coalition you urgently need.

From low-hanging fruits to leveraging transformation.

Once the first business value is created, the level of trust by peers and management allow EAs to look further into the future. It is their task to formulate target architectures and present the ways for the company to get there. However, they must keep in mind that focus on creating business value and high data quality is inevitable in order to avoid the ivory tower fallacy.

We will be exploring the vital role of data quality on the way to digital excellence in the next blog post to come. If you would like to experience lean EAM in action, why not request your own FREE LEANIX TRIAL FOR 30 DAYS?