Why Enterprise Architecture Agility is Becoming Increasingly Important

Technology has made us faster. In the last century, we’ve found ways to travel faster, exchange information faster, and most importantly – innovate faster. In fact, there’s an argument to be made that perhaps we’ve entered an age where we innovate too quickly.

Think about it – how can any company aim for longevity when the next industry revolutionizing innovation is just around the corner. And it seems as if there’s a new one every other month.

Start-ups like Uber, Deliveroo and others have already reshaped their respective industries and largely without much – if any at all – forewarning. These disruptions to the market can rarely be planned for. Much of this is down to the nature of the internet and how quickly a message can spread.

Now that more and more products are being offered in the form of software, and within that, more and more of those being SaaS offerings, it’s not hard to imagine yet another uptick in the speed in which the market changes and evolves.

This is a particularly important area of focus for Enterprise Architects, as they are largely going to be responsible for implementing and integrating these new technologies. And with the evolution of Enterprise Architecture itself, from fringe support IT role to a forward thinking source of innovation, EA’s will even be responsible for sourcing new tech, predicting market trends, and generally operating with the businesses future-state in mind, in order to stay ahead of the curve.

Agile Enterprise Architecture

So how do you account for rapid and unforeseen changes in strategic planning?

Well, the short answer is that you don’t. Realistically, you can’t plan for something if you don’t know…

  1. What’s coming
  2. When it’s coming

Businesses must instead prepare to react. This is what’s at the core of “being agile”, – a business mantra and way of operating that has been championed by many of the leading analysts, including Gartner, Forrester and others for a number of years now.

The point in being agile is understanding that you’re not always going to be ahead of the curve. This is because it’s impossible to constantly live “outside the box”. Eventually, an outside of the box idea becomes the box, and it takes a new outsider to really pivot the market.

Agility then, is about making sure that when disruptions occur, you’re not only ready to change course (or in some extreme cases, radically pivot), you’re also ready to turn disruption into opportunity.

What does agility mean to Enterprise Architecture?

In Enterprise Architecture, agility is mainly about reducing time to markets and making the practice more efficient.

There are a number of ways in which this can be achieved. Some relate to how EA is done, and some relate to how EA is perceived by the wider business.

Firstly, when it comes to doing EA, one best practice is the “just enough” mantra. Just enough Enterprise Architecture aims to avoid the issues that can plague an EA initiative due to over analysis.

Enterprise Architecture is one of those disciplines where it could be argued that the work is never done – but that doesn’t mean that there isn’t a time to stop and move on. Instead of documenting every inch and detail of an organization, EAs should instead aim to to deliver just enough to support the desired business outcomes.

A failure to implement just enough Enterprise Architecture plays a huge part in an organization’s failings in staying agile. It takes the EAs focus away from the businesses future-state, and instead, bogs them down with the past and current.

Of course, it’s vital for an EA to understand a business’s current capabilities, but looking forward is a huge part of the balance that makes a successful Enterprise Architecture effort.

If you feel your Enterprise Architecture efforts get bogged down with “analysis paralysis,” you should try using a goal based decision process. This keeps a focus on what needs to be built and by when.

Another reason an Enterprise Architecture department might be struggling to increase agility is the lack of a purpose built EA tool. As Enterprise Architecture has traditionally been quite expensive to get off the ground – with installation, upkeep and other costs – many businesses have resorted to using a hodgepodge of not-for-purpose Office Tools.

It’s a viable option at first, but as the Enterprise Architecture grows, these guerrilla Enterprise Architecture efforts often become increasingly difficult to manage as the architecture’s documentation spills across multiple files that can be exclusive to multiple people.

A purpose built EA tool with a strong focus on collaboration means that Enterprise Architects can share and collaborate on work directly within the tool. It also makes the architecture as a whole far easier to navigate and present to the wider business as it’s all kept within the same programme.

The improved capabilities in collaboration can also help with EA’s perception in the wider business. Getting stakeholders more involved in the EA makes its purpose and value far more clear.

This will lead to an environment where EA and the results it produces are treated with more dignity and trust, aiding in increasing agility by removing some of the bureaucratic hurdles faced before.

It’s now easier than ever to kickstart an Enterprise Architecture initiative with an EA tool. SaaS offerings with staggered license types especially, can be an in for businesses starting at Level 0 on the EA maturity model. Businesses no longer need to worry about the massive up front cost, and with the option to buy more licenses, the tool can scale with the EA initiative as it develops.

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