Enterprise Initiatives

This blog focuses on Enterprise IT topics such as Enterprise Architecture, Portfolio Management, Change Management, Business Process Management, and recaps various technology events and news.

One of the challenges of explaining the value of Enterprise Architecture to your organization is the perception that EA is nothing more then a think-tank for high priced architects who practice philosophy from their Ivory Towers. Executives are concerned that the EA team will produce nothing more then nice documents and diagrams and will not contribute to the overall benefit of the company. I have seen three different approaches to EA based on this perception.

Not in my house!
In this scenario, the CIO totally buys into the perceptions and will shut down any attempt to invest in EA. This often occurs when the key decision makers are not highly technical and clearly do not understand the value of EA. IT shops who take this approach tend to work hard and not smart, reinvent the wheel over and over again, struggle to keep up with demands of the business, and lack a flexible architecture to adapt to change.

Half-baked EA
Some companies attempt EA with only "one foot in the water". In this scenario, they believe in the value of EA but fear the perceptions of EA. Instead of addressing the perception issue, they choose to create tactical deliverables so that they can "show" the business concrete evidence that they are delivering value. By giving their architects tactical tasks they take away strategic thinking time required to build out an EA. This becomes a distraction that may entertain the business for a short amount of time but it increases the likeliness of your EA effort to fail. To deliver EA, you must spend the time up front to create the vision, the roadmap, and then methodically produce the deliverables required to deliver the vision.

Full blown EA
These companies have fearless leaders who are able to sell the value of EA and don't let perceptions get in the way of creating real value for the organization. These companies will have to fight the good fight since many people in the organization believe in the Ivory Tower perception and will not be supportive of the initiative. It is critical that the EA group stays focused to the cause and does not get distracted with non strategic initiatives. In other words, they cannot get sucked into the machine! On the flip side, these companies must be very careful that they do not try to over analyze the enterprise and spend months or years creating documents and delivering nothing to the organization.

How do we get there from here?
My advice is to treat EA like any other large culture changing initiative. Follow the steps I highlighted in the post EA, SOA, and Change:

  1. Build strong business case
  2. Secure executive sponsor and top level buy in
  3. Create a Road Map
  4. Communicate the Road Map
  5. Empower Others to Act on the Road Map
  6. Start small, deliver early and often (agile)
  7. Expand, leverage architecture
  8. Govern
The challenge is getting through the first 5 steps in a reasonable amount of time so that you can start showing value in steps 6-7. Here is an important point. The business can never really "see" Enterprise Architecture which is why the half-baked EA methodology is a waste of time. Instead of trying to create deliverables that are visible to the human eye, the EA team should focus on getting the development teams to leverage your EA. EA is under the covers and should not be a puppet show for the business. The business should "feel" the impacts of EA when IT starts improving its time to market, delivering consistent and standard products and services, becomes flexible and agile, and becomes a partner in matching technology to business goals and objectives.

EA is a journey and should be treated as one. It will take years to mature an EA but it shouldn't take years to provide value. There are many books that describe the phases of EA maturity (Enterprise Architecture as a Strategy is my favorite). Each phase can produce real business benefits. Keep the long term goal in mind but set your short term goals on value added deliverables that are stepping stones for the final phases of EA maturity. And most important, stay out of the Ivory Towers!


  1. Jason Baxter  

    I think you're right on track with your thoughts on EA. A big portion of an Enterprise Architect's job seems to be articulating his or her value. Wouldn't it be nice if the value was simply understood!?! :-)

    I think the larger companies 'get it' and understand the value of EA but the real struggle comes with medium sized companies who have a hard time allocating scarce resources to what is somewhat seen as not directly contributing to the bottom line.

    I think that in those scenarios they best way to show value and to make sure that the important things for EA are being adressed is to carve out or modify role of Solution Architect. These Solution Architects have 2 main goals:

    1. Provide expert level technical architecture and technical leadership guidance to projects. They need to make themselves indispensable to the project team and project leadership.

    2. Through their project work they need to ensure that the projects are adhering to the architecture vision. They also need to be strong evangalists for sound EA principles.

    This is a great approach to leverage as a stepping stone to doing true EA. You'll have provided value that you can point to and established a level of credibility that's key to have for EA.

    On a side note, I'm providing a link to your blog from mine. I think they're similar in focus. Nice work.



  2. Anonymous  

    I fully agree with your writing here Mike, what I still questioning myself on is how does my company sees EA... It is quite new for my company, and the journey just begun...
    I know the answer is not a black or white answer, esp. for such a big company, but what is the most important for me esp. since I've been asked to take this EA chief architect position.
    Are that the right people in the organization are conviced of the EA values and fundamentals?
    I am still working on this question.

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