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A Glimpse at the Discipline Known as Enterprise Architecture June 30, 2012

Posted by daleklein in Enterprise Architecture.
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Gartner is a leading information technology research and advisory company and we start with their insightful definition as to what is enterprise architecture.  “Enterprise architecture (EA) is the process of translating business vision and strategy into effective enterprise change by creating, communicating and improving the key requirements, principles and models that describe the enterprise’s future state and enable its evolution.  EA is the process of translating business vision and strategy into effective enterprise change by creating, communicating and improving the key requirements, principles and models that describe the enterprise’s future state and enable its evolution.” [1]

One of the key components of enterprise architecture is that it is a discipline that includes people, processes and technology of the enterprise as well as their relationship to one another and the external environment.  To that end we will take a glimpse at a key factor to the success of implementing EA which is the alignment of IT and business.  Next we will look at operating models which provide us with an abstract representation of a business entity and how it operates across processes and technology domains across the entire organization. In closing we will touch on architecture blueprinting which is a discipline that helps organizations define and deliver technology capabilities that are aligned with their strategic objectives.

Business managers are interested in knowing how any IT initiative will add value to the business organization.  In communicating with these executives you need to understand their vocabulary and communicate in their language in order to remove obstacles that might undermine the process.  EA needs to provide consistency through the use of standards or best practices which in turn reduces the total cost of ownership.  Good alignment with the business is important, but the question we need to ask ourselves is does it translate into real dollars?  According to the 2008 “State of the CIO” survey it couldn’t be clearer: Alignment brings the money.  According to results from this survey “CIOs who said they were aligned with the business reported that IT had enabled a new revenue stream more than twice as often as those CIOs who said they were not aligned (24 percent versus 11 percent). More important, more aligned CIOs said they had used IT to create a competitive advantage for the company than unaligned CIOs (38 percent versus 23 percent).” [2]

Aligning your IT projects and processes with the business’s strategies is a risky undertaking. It puts the IT department on the front lines of doing battle in the marketplace, where failure is common. This is why the aligned organization’s top executives must create a supportive environment in which the CIO and other managers recognize what isn’t working and can quickly adjust the plans.  A supportive environment is one that does not punish people for every failure which leads to a corporate culture of playing it safe and finger pointing when things go awry. [3]  In order to build an effective alignment between business and IT you need to build a high trust level between the two divisions.  If you have a supportive corporate culture you will build higher levels of trust and view the other side as a partner or a team player that just plays a different position than you.

The next thing we want to take a glimpse at is a framework that will give us a better understanding of how the business works.  An operating model provides us with an abstract representation of a business entity and how it operates across processes and technology domains across the entire organization. [4] It is typically used to create a framework which helps formulate a strategy or a strategic scheme which will support integration while providing value to the business organization.  It is the primary driver of the level of standardization and data sharing.  There are four different models which can be applied – coordination, unification, diversification and replication which will look at independently.

A company that needs a low degree of standardization but will have high data sharing is considered a “coordinated company”.  These types of companies will have a number of representative locations and they may offer a number of varying services, probably in different ways, but they need access to the same core data source relating to their customers.  A prime example of this is your bank.  Your data should be the same and accessible to any branch of that bank you happen to visit.  There is no unified process because not all branches offer the same services or level of service which is dependent upon its size and location.

A company that needs a high degree of standardization and will have high data sharing is considered a “unified company”.  This is a case where the business shares its core processes while needing access to the same data.

A company that needs a low degree of standardization and will have low data sharing is considered a “diversified company”.  This is a complete opposite to the unification model.  You typically have multiple business units which make up the organization, they probably have a different set of customers that are focused on and there really is no overlap in their functions.  They do not have the same customer so there’s no need to integrate the data and while processes may be similar they are usually tailored to the individual units of operation.  This model is often used by aerospace and defense contractors.

The last glimpse into the world of Enterprise Architecture will be to look at blueprinting.  This time we look to the insightful interpretation of Deloitte Consulting LLP for a definition on blueprinting.  They state “Enterprise Architecture Blueprinting is a discipline that helps organizations define and deliver technology capabilities aligned with their strategic objectives. Blueprinting is a process of progressively elaborating a set of capabilities through conceptual, logical and physical states, informing decision making at multiple levels, and helping to maximize the business value of technology.” [5]

Blueprints are used to align a business’s assets, processes and capabilities to the strategic objectives of an organization.  It accomplishes by assessing the current state of its technology components.  Once that is realized it can map out a future state of capabilities and processes. A roadmap helps to deliver the future state into the current state.  The blueprints are tools for turning large and complex concepts into details that will assist in decision making.  By giving the stakeholders a view of the landscape they can better drive the strategic alignment of technological capabilities.

Enterprise Architecture Blueprints should be agile and they should be evaluated and updated at regular intervals.  As technology milestones are achieved, current-state models should be versioned to reflect new capabilities. As business strategies change, future-state diagrams should be updated to ensure that the represented mix of capabilities and processes support the new direction. [5]

“Organizations that institute the appropriate governance and processes to maintain their Enterprise Architecture Blueprints also benefit from having a tool set to gauge the impact of changes to business strategy. Having up-to-date representations of organizational capabilities and processes, mapped to strategies and KPIs, allows for situational analysis to be performed; the impact of strategic changes to people, process and technology can be meaningfully evaluated when Blueprinting models are kept current in organizations with mature Enterprise Architecture functions.” [5]

As a final note it is worth noting that in the 2010 State of the CIO Survey that when asked what CIO’s were focusing their time on we see the following: “Aligning IT initiatives with business goals (58 percent), improving IT operations and systems performance (53 percent), and implementing new systems and architecture (47 percent) are among the most frequently cited activities that best characterize where CIOs spend the majority of their time and focus.” [6]

Works Cited:

[1] “Gartner IT   Glossary,” [Online]. Available:   http://www.gartner.com/it-glossary/enterprise-architecture-ea/. [Accessed 25   June 2012].
[2] A. HOLMES, “The   ROI of Alignment,” bITa Center, 2008. [Online]. Available:   http://www.bita-center.com/node/310. [Accessed 15 June 2012].
[3] K. Burger,   “Developing a Corporate Culture for Better Business/IT Alignment,”   Insurance & Technology, 8 May 2011. [Online]. Available: http://www.insurancetech.com/management-strategies/229402723.   [Accessed 15 June 2012].
[4] “Wikipedia,”   [Online]. Available: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operating_model. [Accessed   26 June 2012].
[5] “Enterprise Architecture Blueprinting: Road Maps for Strategic   Alignment,” Deloitte Development LLC.
[6] “2010 STATE OF THE CIO SURVEY,” CIO MAGAZINE,   2011.
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