How Innovative Is Your Enterprise Architecture Organization?

by Dan Aston       • July 13, 2015

Think back to the most recent enterprise architecture articles, blog posts or even job descriptions you’ve read, and count any that did not mention “innovation” at least once? I’m guessing that more often than not, “innovation” was tauted as a catalyst, outcome or bi-product of effective enterprise architecture in one way or another.

Now we all know this is not a new theme, but it is increasingly being emphasized as more C-level executives place innovation on the strategic agenda which has a trickle-down influence on the entire organization. And i’m not talking about it in the buzzword sense. No, i’m talking about definable, measurable, incremental and breakthrough innovation that delivers tangible results to business performance.

Agile and Innovative Enterprise Architecture

To borrow a line from this blog post by Steve Nimmons“Ask yourself how innovative your Enterprise Architecture function really is. An Agile and Innovative Enterprise Architecture function can and should drive tangible business benefits. An Enterprise Architecture function that ‘uses governance to say no’ and paralyses the business with change control will soon die (or become an irrelevance).”

In a recent post on Driving Innovation Through Enterprise Architecture, we explained how teams that embed a defined and repeatable ideation/crowdsourcing process into its operating model can solve the most complicated challenges and develop a pipeline of innovation opportunities.

Innovation in Strategic Planning Lifecycle

To achieve this, architects must engage all stakeholders across the organization to capture their ideas and input. The combined creativity of the crowd surpasses the ability of the architecture team alone to uncover new innovations. It’s then up to the EA team to evaluate the impact, value, risk, cost, strategic alignment etc. of each idea and solution in order to select the best for implementation.

In fact, Gartner recently outlined three approaches for EA teams to adopt when exploring “Complicated”, “Complex” and “Chaotic” problems/opportunities, and the different stakeholder groups you must engage to capture the required ideas and input. There’s a good explanation of the approach in this post on the UCISA EA blog (see section “Orchestrating Ideation: Creating Breakthrough Innovation Opportunities”)

When you proactively pursue innovation in such a way, coupled with the adoption of emerging technologies, IoT, 3D printing and the likes, it increases the opportunity for, and the profile of innovations driven by EA.

Innovation The New Normal In Enterprise Architecture

With significant horizontal play across the organization, our role in orchestrating ideation and engaging all stakeholders becomes significant. I wonder if we’ll soon see a growing community of Enterprise Innovation Architects? We’re already beginning to see it frequently added onto VP level titles at larger organizations.


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