Spring into Action! Growing Enterprise Architecture for Business Seasons "yet to be"
“Spring is the time of plans and projects.” Leo Tolstoy
The sight of cherry blossoms may signify more than an end to cold weather. Depending on your organization’s budget cycle, the season of IT planning may also be in bloom. As an enterprise architect, what steps can you take to help plant the seeds of innovation in your organization’s planning process?
In business seasons of the past, structure and routine ruled the day. Technology options were limited to mainframes, clients, servers and waterfall processes. The EA analyst knew what to do: describe the technology through roles, processes, and materials; link to the CEO’s goals to provide stature; rationalize the technology; and, finally, add governance to the equation. Though often viewed as shelfware, the EA analyst plowed through the architecture, as cultivating the framework provided never-ending work. The growth in business seasons of the past came at a cost. Unrestrained technology debt proliferates like invasive weeds and persistently pervasive monolithic systems require constant tending.
In the present business season, the age of information presents unbounded opportunity. The present business season seeks to be agile and adept. Cloud services are just a credit card away. Disruptive technology cultivates new business models - DevOps, automation, web services, big data, social media, IoT, blockchain, and on and on. Consumption is easy, but interoperability, integration, reusability and security are more complex. The EA analyst must embrace soft skills and evolve to become more business focused, advising and collaborating in transforming the business. Documentation often lags behind the pace of changes taking place. Despite commercial enterprise architecture tools, the overall approach is frequently dependent on manual inputs and information provided by others to the EA analysts who continuously update the repository.
Enterprise Architecture is a pragmatic approach to IT design that identifies pathways for innovation to transform the enterprise to meet business missions and goals.
Spring, however, is not the time to ponder the past, when the promise of warm business seasons “yet to be” lie ahead. New technology adoption will become a balance between risk and reward. When the prospect of business seasons “yet to be”, with all its promise, becomes clouded by the prospect of rapid change and FOMO – the fear of missing out – the EA analyst is ideally positioned to add context to assure rational decision-making will not be jeopardized.
Within the OCIO, competing priorities and perchance a bit of organizational wrangling can limit the perspective to one wearing blinders. By contrast, business units expect features that are easily accessible to them in the commercial world. Couple both of these with a misplaced understanding of agility to mean taking shortcuts and neither is looking for the ripple effect when making a decision.
The value of enterprise architecture to the business should not be diminished by preconceptions that equate the discipline of enterprise architecture to its toolset - the artifacts and repository, the guidelines and governance, the frameworks and reference models. Enterprise architecture is the one discipline that considers the business as a whole.
As such, IT planning can provide a roadmap, projecting expenses and identifying projects to achieve business-defined goals. Often it will be difficult to precisely determine how great the risk or reward will be. Drawing on the lessons of past decisions, an enterprise view of present solutions and a vision for future technology, positions the EA analyst to provide profound insight. In this manner, the EA can identify opportunity, strategy, and vision to harmonize IT planning.
So, how can EA analysts “spring into action” to add value to a business and enrich IT planning?
• Engage, then engage, then engage more. Whenever and wherever you can, engage in thoughtful conversations within the OCIO, and with the business. Frame the conversation around the best overall outcome for your organization as a whole. People will be more willing to be forthright when they value your opinion and you can articulate an enterprise perspective.
• Speak in relatable terms and metrics. When prescribing a standard or guideline that is important to enforce, promote it to the business in terms they will understand. For example, goals to reduce technology debt, improve code quality or automate standard builds all sound like a benefit to IT. Translating these into shorter sprints, quicker releases, or additional features benefits the business. In like manner, using a common taxonomy such as Technology Business Management (TBM) can effectively communicate the value of IT costs in supporting business goals.
• Govern what matters. Nothing will get users asking for forgiveness or waivers more than overcomplicated processes. Identify and focus governance on what is most important to your organization to meet its goals.
• Make it easy. If orchestrating operations between silos are complicated and confusing, reconsider the process from end to end from the user’s perspective. Avoid the marketing hype when evaluating tools and services. A bad process on premise moved to the cloud is still a bad process.
• Make it accessible. First, if your EA analysts are creating artifacts that no one sees, then no one cares. That is not to say that everyone within your organization needs access to the enterprise architecture tools and repository. Create a presentation layer so that users have access to the information they need without going through an EA analyst. To maintain trust, the integrity and quality of the information that you do provide is of paramount importance. When users can depend on the quality of the information and easy access to the information, enterprise architecture will become the go to place for information.
Spring is a time of growth and renewal. This is an opportunity to renew your organization’s view of enterprise architecture and to grow as an EA analyst. Taking steps now to mature your enterprise architecture will position you to add value during the next IT planning season. Enterprise Architecture is a pragmatic approach to IT design that considers benefits and risks to the enterprise as a whole, while identifying a pathway for innovation that will transform the enterprise to meet the business mission and goals. In defining enterprise architecture, let us move away from the tools and metaphors, and embrace a definition that clearly states our value to more easily weather funding droughts and prosper in the business seasons ahead.