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What Is Agile Enterprise Architecture?

by Zak Cole       • April 23, 2020

Having an agile enterprise architecture (EA) is the difference between whether an organization flourishes or flounders in an increasingly changing business climate.

Over the years, EA has gotten a bad reputation for not providing business value. However, enterprise architecture frameworks and languages like TOGAF and ArchiMate aren’t responsible for this perception. In fact, these standards provide a mechanism for communication and delivery, but the way enterprise architects historically have used them has caused issues.

Today, organizations need to embrace enterprise architecture – and enterprise architecture tools – because of the value it does provide. How else can they respond to business and IT needs or manage change without first documenting what they have, want and need?

Because that’s exactly what EA addresses. It provides business and IT alignment by mapping applications, technologies and data to the value streams and business functions they support.

Essentially, it’s a holistic, top-down view of an organization and its assets that can be used to better inform strategic planning.

But what is an agile enterprise architecture, and what are its advantages?

The Need for Agile Enterprise Architecture

The old adage that anything of any complexity needs to be modeled before it can be changed definitely holds true.

The issue is that enterprise architects tend to model everything down to an excruciating level of detail, often getting lost in the weeds and rarely surfacing for air to see what the rest of the business is doing and realizing what it needs.

This often makes communicating an organization’s enterprise architecture more difficult, adding to the perception of enterprise architects working in an ivory tower.

Just-in-Time vs Just-Enough Enterprise Architecture

Just in time, just enough and agile development and delivery are phrases we’ve all heard. But how do they pertain to EA?

Just-in-time enterprise architecture

Agile is based on the concept of “just in time.” You can see this in many of the agile practices, especially in DevOps. User stories are created when they are needed and not before, and releases happen when there is appropriate value in releasing, not before and not after. Additionally, each iteration has a commitment that is met on time by the EA team.

Just-enough enterprise architecture

EA is missing the answer to the question of “what exactly is getting delivered?” This is where we introduce the phrase “just enough, just in time” because stakeholders don’t just simply want it in time, they also want just enough of it — regardless of what it is.

This is especially important when communicating with non-EA professionals. In the past, enterprise architects have focused on delivering all of the EA assets to stakeholders and demonstrating the technical wizardry required to build the actual architecture.

Agile Enterprise Architecture Best Practices and Techniques

The following techniques and methods can help you provide just-enough EA:

Campaigns

Create a marketing-style campaign to focus on EA initiatives, gathering and describing only what is required to satisfy the goal of the campaign.

Models

At the start of the project, it doesn’t make sense to build a fancy EA that is going to change anyway. Teams should strive to build just enough architecture to support the campaigns in the pipeline.

Collaboration

Agile teams certainly have high levels of collaboration, and that’s because that level is just enough to help them be successful.

In light of the global pandemic, such collaboration might be more difficult to achieve. But organizations can take advantage of collaborative enterprise architecture tools that support remote working.

Planning

In iteration planning, we don’t look at things outside the iteration. We do just enough planning to make sure we can accomplish our goal for the iteration. Work packages and tasks play a large role in both planning and collaboration.

Agile Enterprise Architecture to Keep Pace with Change

As one of the top job roles in 2020, it’s clear organizations recognize the need for enterprise architects in keeping pace with change.

In modern business, what’s also clear is that maximizing the role’s potential requires an agile approach, or else organizations could fall into the same ivory-tower trappings burdening the discipline in the past.

Organizations can use erwin Evolve to tame complexity, manage change and increase operational efficiency. Its many benefits include:

  • Agility & Efficiency: Achieve faster time to actionable insights and value with integrated views across initiatives to understand and focus on business outcomes.
  • Lower Risks & Costs: Improve performance and profitability with harmonized, optimized and visible processes to enhance training and lower IT costs.
  • Creation & Visualization of Complex Models: Harmonize EA/BP modelling capabilities for greater visibility, control and intelligence in managing any use case.
  • Powerful Analysis: Quickly and easily explore model elements, links and dependencies, plus identify and understand the impact of changes.
  • Documentation & Knowledge Retention: Capture, document and publish information for key business functions to increase employee education and awareness and maintain institutional knowledge, including standard operating procedures.
  • Democratization & Decision-Making: Break down organizational silos and facilitate enterprise collaboration among those both in IT and business roles for more informed decisions that drive successful outcomes.

You can try erwin Evolve for yourself and keep any content you produce should you decide to buy.

Collaborative enterprise architecture

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