Enterprise Architecture – Part 1
This is the first in the three part blog post that describes various topics related to Enterprise Architecture. EA is a common acronym that depending on the context could denote to the discipline “Enterprise Architecture” or the role “Enterprise Architect”.
In the first part, I would like to focus on the role “Enterprise Architect” and how this role can be an effective change agent for an enterprise. In the second part, I will delve in to Enterprise Architecture the discipline and in the third/final part I will go into more details of SAP Enterprise Architecture Framework and its core components.
Businesses are complex entities and successful businesses are always changing, transforming and reinventing themselves to keep up with the growing demands of the market place, competitive threats and technological breakthroughs. Enterprises have to manage both introduction of changes needed and the successful execution of those changes to sustain their current position and also to grow in the future. So an effective program or project management serves as a vehicle for companies to achieve the desired change to attain their long term goals.
Change is constant and is mandatory. So deciding what to change, how much to change and in what sequence or priority the company should introduce such a change is not a trivial task. Determining the “right change” for the enterprise and rallying the organization to embrace the change requires a very structured analysis that includes the following
- understanding the enterprise’s long term vision and its business strategy
- analyzing the enterprise’s existing architecture and determining how the architecture needs to be transformed
- developing a high level plan to introduce the changes needed for the enterprise
- and finally communicating this plan to all the stakeholders of the enterprise to secure their buy-in
This is where the Enterprise Architecture discipline comes in to picture where the discipline enables the practitioner, an Enterprise Architect, to perform the analysis with the help a framework, required methodology and appropriate set of tools.
In many enterprises, the typical IT culture involves task-oriented work models, project centric approach and being in a perennial firefighting mode thus resulting in the IT organization becoming too reactive to address evolving business challenges. Many IT managers may not have time or resources to deal with planning and managing “global enterprise-wide change” effectively. More often than not they may be too focused on more immediate concerns and executing the plans already in place. Or in many cases the enterprise may not dedicate needed resources in devising a roadmap or plan to translate the strategic elements in to more actionable programs and projects.
So the role of Enterprise Architect is very vital for every organization and especially for large enterprises that tend to have a very complex IT landscape. An Enterprise Architect is often equated to a “City planner” who is more focused on the big picture, establishing the long term transformation plans and defining guidelines for the rest of the enterprise to follow. The Enterprise Architect typically needs to have a bird’s eye view of the enterprise’s architectural landscape rather than participating in execution of projects and operations of the enterprise.
An Enterprise Architect can serve as a bridge or liaison between business and IT teams. The analysis performed and the resulting roadmap from a structured EA analysis has connections to both strategic elements of business (business strategy, its vision, goals and objectives) and architecture domains (business, application, data and technology). Hence, the probability is higher for the results to get buy-in among the key business and IT stakeholders of the enterprise. In addition, the EA can be an effective change agent by focusing on the key priorities described as follows
- Define a clear roadmap to transform the enterprise and attain target state in a way it maximizes value to the business
- Establish and enforce enterprise wide guidelines and policies to achieve cohesion among all the programs that are enterprise wide in scope
- Define and communicate how enterprise architecture enables business goals and objectives
- Offer a holistic perspective and show a clear trace between strategic elements of the business and architecture components
- Define and introduce change in a more structured, predictable and controlled way
- Design and implement governance that can guide programs and projects ensuring their alignment with business strategy
An Enterprise Architect can add tremendous value to the company by being an active strategist/planner and by establishing the strategic roadmap with clear definition of the “right solutions” for the enterprise. An EA establishes enterprise wide strategy and standards preventing silo developments that sub-optimize the benefits to the enterprise. The EA can influence key decisions and make sure money is well spent on the right things. In addition, the EA can focus on the long term while providing guidelines for the short term, maintaining continuity from one enterprise architecture development cycle to the next.
The EA must possess a good mix of hard and soft skills. Speaking of the hard skills the EA must have a more broad perspective and be familiar with how a company operates. In other words he or she should have a good idea about all the end to end core processes that support the operations of the company and clearly has a broader view of all the architecture domains namely (a) business, (b) application, (c) information and (d) technology domains. The background and experience should typically follow a “T” model where the EA should have grown through the ranks of an enterprise in one of the four domains (signified by the vertical segment of T) and now has a enterprise wide perspective of a single domain and how it inter-relates to other domains (signified by the horizontal segment of T).
As the EA needs to lead through influence soft skills are critical and fundamental to the role. Soft skills include everything from simple communication skill to negotiation, marketing, selling, people management skills and awareness of the political culture within the organization. Succeeding with influence requires persistence, a sense of urgency/priority and value delivery through results.