Experts are invaluable. They’re the people who have demonstrated time and time again that they can be trusted in their relevant field. However, dialogue between experts and non-experts is not always as straightforward as we’d like it to be.
We’ve all experienced it, and perhaps we’ve also been guilty of it ourselves – that is, speaking about a topic with the presumption that your audience is already caught up.
Enterprise architecture (and its architects) is no different in this regard, and perhaps more guilty than most. Enterprise Architects (EA) can often fall into the trap of demonstrating the technical wizardry behind building processes, and understandably so. This is the side of EA than an Enterprise Architect sees.
However, this generally isn’t the side that stakeholders want to see. Perhaps this is a crude analogy, but in health, you’re not too concerned with the biology behind why you’re all bunged up. The experts know why, but you just want to feel better.
You just want the outcome.
Enterprise architecture is no different. In this case, patients stakeholders want to see the solution. They want to see how a new or revised enterprise architecture initiative will bring the organization closer to it’s desired business outcomes.
This is why the traditional, standardized framework-centric take on EA has its limits (but that doesn’t mean enterprise architecture frameworks are obsolete). IT thought leader and leading Gartner researcher, Brian Burke (above) previously shed some light on this:
“Focusing on a standard EA framework doesn’t work,” he said. “In the past EA practicioners focused on deliverables that were useful to enterprise architects but not valuable to senior management and/or did not respond to a specific business IT need.
“We’ve witnessed a change in mind-set, execution and delivery of EA. The value of EA is not in simply ‘doing EA’, but rather in how it can help evolve the business and enable senior executives to respond to business threats and opportunities.”
Brian Burke’s statements are echoed across the industry. Enterprise architecture has got to become more about business outcomes and the deliverables that steer an organization toward them.
Gartner have actually outlined the deliverables behind the wheel – categorizing five different deliverables that will aid in EAs delivering business value.
Measurable Deliverables – Deliverables that measure EAs direct impact on a business.
Actionable Deliverables – Deliverables that drive change in relation to business outcomes.
Diagnostic Deliverables – Analytic tools purposed for determining the knock on effects of business decisions.
Enabling Deliverables – The collected information (e.g. from performance metrics) that enable diagnostic deliverables. Essentially the basis on which the analysis in diagnostic deliverables is formed.
Operational Deliverables – Deliverables focused internally, on the EA teams themselves. They help define where an EA team is now and an outline of what should be done to move forward.
Frameworks can still be implemented, however. But they should be implemented malleably, as opposed to being rigid as not to undermine EAs rule of best practice – “Just Enough” enterprise architecture .
“Just enough” enterprise architecture is an EA mantra for avoiding the problems that come with over analysis. Problems such as delayed decision making and missed opportunity thanks to a symptom colloquially dubbed “analysis paralysis.”
A deliverable/business outcome approach can help address which tangents are most important to the organization, and therefore indicate which is best to follow. Then, rather than doing everything in a blanket, one size fits all take on EA, enterprise architects can be far more precise, saving themselves time, and moving projects through the pipeline more quickly.
A businesses outcome based approach to EA will also help align the business needs with the IT department as a whole. By focusing on what the business needs, you’ll be able to prime the IT & Technology services, as well as application portfolios in order to achieve what you set out to do in order to progress as departments, and the organization as a whole.
Innovation is becoming increasingly more important in business. It should now, ideally, permeate every inch of an organization both encouraging and enabling innovation indiscriminately across processes. Enterprise architecture is no different in this regard – there’s even a case for innovation being even more important to EA, as they administer the foundations in which to implement new ideas.
The business outcome approach to EA, can provide a platform upon which innovation can be carried out.