Enterprise architecture seeks to simplify organizational complexity through both business processes reengineering and technology enablement. Technology itself is simplified through standardization, consolidation, interoperability, integration, modernization, and component reuse.
Harvard Business Review, December 2007, reports on simplifying the enterprise.
“Large organizations are by nature complex, but over the years circumstances have conspired to add layer upon layer of complexity to how businesses are structured and managed. Well-intentioned responses to new business challenges—globalization, emerging technologies, and regulations…–have left us with companies that are increasingly ungovernable, unwieldy, and underperforming. In many more energy is devoted to navigating the labyrinth than to achieving results.”
Having worked for a few large organizations myself, I can “feel the pain.” Getting up to 8 levels of signature approval on routine management matters is just one such pain point.
What causes complexity?
“Complexity is the cumulative byproduct or organizational changes, big and small that over the years weave complications (often invisibly) into the ways that work is done.”
What is sort of comical here is that the many change management and quality processes that are put in place or attempted may actually do more harm than good, by making changes at the fringes—rather than true simplification and process reengineering at the core of the enterprise.
Here is a checklist for cutting complexity out of your organization:
- “Make simplification a goal, not a virtue—include simplicity…[in] the organization’s strategy; set targets for reducing complexity; create performance incentives that reward simplicity.
- Simplify organizational structure—reduce levels and layers…consolidate similar functions.
- Prune and simplify products and services—employ product portfolio strategy; eliminate, phase out, or sell low-value products; counter feature creep.
- Discipline business and governance processes—create well-defined decision structures (councils and committees); streamline operating processes (planning, budgeting, and so on).
- Simplify personal patterns—counter communication overload; manage meeting time; facilitate collaboration across organizational boundaries.”
Leading enterprise architecture and IT governance for a number of enterprises has shown me that these initiatives must be focused on the end-user and on simplifying process and improving results, rather than creating more unnecessary complexity. The chief architect needs to carefully balance the need for meaningful planning, helpful reviews, and solid documentation and an information repository with simplifying, streamlining, consolidating, reengineering, and facilitating an agile, nimble, and innovative culture.