Enterprise Architecture as a Management Consultancy Practice

by Zak Cole       • September 8, 2016

Enterprise Architecture (EA) has a unique position in the organization. The overview of connected systems, capabilities, departments and business assets, and internal and external ecosystem influences essentially gives Architects a view of the whole living organization from above.

The practice of EA has been around for some time, but the insight this perspective can provide has only been capitalized on in recent years. This is largely down today’s broader scope of what EA now encompasses, the shift into digital business, and the increasingly interconnected environment digital business demands.

This new view and way of doing business opens up a new type of Enterprise Architecture.

Enterprise Architecture is no longer just concerned with IT-related planning, maintaining and cost cutting. Now EAs are responsible for driving transformation, enabling growth and highlighting new business avenues and innovating. This means that the work done by EAs, has a huge influence on a company’s strategy execution.

We’ve already written about how EA is in a great position to advise the CIO, but considering the above, we could argue that EA can act as an organization’s own internal Management Consultancy.

Enterprise Architecture as a Management Consulting Practice

Enterprise Architecture as Management Consultancy

Gartner have spoken for a while about Business Outcome driven EA. The new take on the EA discipline aims to help Enterprise Architecture showcase its value more effectively.

It’s arguably this perspective on EA that makes it such a good fit as Management Consulting. To be Business Outcome orientated, EA’s need to have a solid understanding of company direction, and the systems, processes and people required to steer the business to the next level. They also need to be value driven, and able to show the value of the initiative to C-level management, line managers, stakeholders and other relevant parties.

One great way to begin envisioning Enterprise Architecture as a source of Management Consultancy is to consider the purpose of the two disciplines. The Management Consultancies Association (or the MCA), describe their practice as “the practice of creating value for organizations, through improved performance, achieved by providing objective advice and implementing business solutions.” The MCA goes on to say that, “management consultants help take organizations further than they would go on their own.”

From this definition alone, we can already start to see how Enterprise Architecture and Management Consultancy could be intertwined. Both disciplines are focused on interpreting strategic objectives, delivering increased value, improving performance and advising the business as to how to reach its goals.

Not only does this take on Enterprise Architecture help the business as a whole, it can also serve to help the Enterprise Architects themselves.

To be effective in Management Consultancy, EA must…

Now that we’ve made the case as to why Enterprise Architecture could act like a form of  Management Consultancy, it’s important to look at how. Not every Enterprise Architecture initiative is ready for this renewed take on EA, but it could be said that any EA practice looking to move through the levels of EA maturity, could make reaching this level a priority.

The best practices that should be in place to successfully leverage EA as a form of Management Consultancy are:

  • Agility
  • A business outcome focus
  • A enterprise-wide recognition (not just IT)

Essentially, these best practices are the core of any good Enterprise Architecture initiative, but arguably, any good EA initiative is in a good position to operate as a form of Management Consultancy.

Most architects will find themselves working to deliver agility and business-outcomes over time through review and gradual improvement. In fact, both increasing agility, and maintaining/improving a business outcome focus are often placed high on the CIO agenda.

Getting “enterprise-wide recognition” is arguably a little more complicated.

This requires a change in mindset and culture around the business, and success here is often only achieved through the demonstration of value. One way to help EA deliver Management Consultancy, is to introduce the concept gradually.

As we’ve covered before, C-Level management can help the business recognize the importance of EA more readily by giving them a more regular seat at the top table. EAs would start this transition with an advisory role to the CIO, before taking on responsibilities such as communicating strategy and capablities in the CIOs absence.

What can we do to speed up the process?

As alluded to above, for EA to be taken seriously as a the companies own management consultancy, the EA practice must be delivering business outcomes. This means, at a minimum, doing Enterprise Architecture with the right tools and suitable frameworks so positive results can be repeated.

Companies still immature or doing ad-hoc EA work, often utilizing the Microsoft Office tools won’t succeed here. The results of this kind of EA are too hard to replicate, and often too unorganized to effectively share and present.

The good news is, not all Enterprise Architecture tools require the same level of colossal investment we’ve come to know in the past. SaaS and tiered-license options, for example, mean smaller organizations can start maturing their Enterprise Architecture practice.

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