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Why Your Enterprise Architecture Isn’t the Digital Powerhouse it Should Be…Yet

by Bunny Tharpe       • November 3, 2016

By now, many companies have either just started, or are in the midst of an on-going digital transformation initiative. This isn’t a trend likely to be short lived either. The speed in which businesses have to evolve in order to keep up with new digital advancements will, in all likelihood, only increase.

Considering the nature of digital transformation – changing technologies, processes and even organizational structure – introducing Enterprise Architecture (EA) in order to govern such change seems like a no brainer.

Yet many businesses still haven’t adopted Enterprise Architecture to the degree needed to properly manage digital transformation. In some cases, an Enterprise Architecture initiative may even have been introduced, and an Architect (or Architects) employed, but the business struggles to mature the practice past lower levels of EA maturity. This is often due to the lack of immediate results and subsequent reduction in funding.

If this sounds familiar, it’s likely the false start into EA is down to one of these key reasons.

The Lack of a Business Outcome focus

Modern day Enterprise Architecture requires Architects to look at the bigger picture. The Ad-Hoc approach typical with lower maturity EA initiatives often get caught up tending to technological issues and concerns on a reactionary basis.

When we think of the old way of EA, this doesn’t seem like much of a problem. In the past, Enterprise Architecture worked much like other areas of IT – as a support arm to the main business. EAs during this time would likely be tasked with traditional IT duties, or what is dubbed “keeping on the lights”. But IT has evolved out of it’s support phase with the rise of digital business.

Business Outcome Enterprise Architecture

Now some (or even most in many cases) of a business’s most valuable assets are stored digitally (think Big Data etc), and there are a wealth of businesses who sell primarily, or solely through online avenues. But Enterprise Architecture has been slower to make the transition with the rest of IT. This could be down to the legacy nature of many of the tools in the field, or that because of the old way of EA, organizations simply overlooked its vastly greater value to business in modern markets.

Organizations need to reposition EA closer to the center of the business, and not leave it to stagnate on the fringes. Working closely with CIOs, Enterprise Architects can produce roadmaps and other reports that can steer the business through digital transformation, through innovative and forward thinking approaches.

Enterprise Architects themselves have to ensure they’re not solely focused on the standard EA framework. This approach might be useful to EAs, but to senior management and the wider business, the value isn’t clear. A business outcome approach to EA can help ensure Enterprise Architecture is always focused on how it can improve the business, and help it respond readily to disruption so new avenues can be capitalized on.

A lack of Stakeholder Engagement

When looking to improve an Enterprise Architecture initiative, we can’t look solely at the Enterprise Architecture and Enterprise Architects themselves. EA permeates throughout the whole business and so it stands to reason that any improvements or changes to the way a business does EA, would effect, and therefore should involve other stakeholders too.

But that’s largely the problem. EAs have found it notoriously difficult to encourage stakeholder engagement. There’s a number of reasons why this is problematic. The most clear cut being that, failure to engage business leaders makes it less likely that those business leaders will push for investment into the department.

This can stifle the potential of Enterprise Architecture and limit the future potential outcomes.

But it also has a negative effect on work an Enterprise Architect might already doing. An Enterprise Architect’s job is far easier, and more thorough, when they’re given the means to collaborate with the owners of the systems they are architecting.

Of course, in a busy work environment, collaboration can be difficult. But with tools such as Google’s  G Suite taking over the work place, largely because of their enablement of collaboration, it’s clear it can be done.

The right EA tool can encourage collaboration through gamification, convenience (being able to collaborate online rather than in person) and facilitating communication for feedback, suggestions and commenting.

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