>Enterprise Architecture Design

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User-centric Enterprise Architecture provides information to decision-makers using design thinking, so as to make the information easy to understand and apply to planning and investment decisions.

Some examples of how we do this:

  1. Simplifying complex information by speaking the language of the business (and not all techie).
  2. Unifying disparate information to give a holistic view that breaks the traditional vertical (or functional) views and instead looks horizontally across the organization to foster enterprise solutions where we build once and reuse multiple times.
  3. Visualizing information to condense lots of information and tell a story—as the saying goes, a picture is worth a thousand words.
  4. Segmenting end-users and tailoring EA information products to the different user groups which we do with profiles geared to executive decision makers, models for mid-level managers, and inventories for the analysts.

Interestingly enough, in the summer issue of MIT Sloan Management Review, there is an article called “How to Become a Better Manager…By thinking Like a Designer.”

Here are some design pointers from the experts that you can use to aid your enterprise architectures (they are written to parallel the principles from User-centric EA, as I have previously described above):

  1. Embrace simplicity—“people often confuse simplicity…with simplistic….it takes courage to be simple…and the simplest solution is often the best.”
  2. Look for patterns in the data—“good problem solvers become proficient at identifying patterns.” Further, designers seek “harmony to bring together hierarchy, balance, contrast, and clear space in a meaningful way.”
  3. Apply visual thinking—often managers…rely heavily on data and information to tell the story and miss the opportunity to create context and meaning,” instead managers need to “think of themselves as designers, visual thinkers or storytellers.”
  4. Presenting clearly to specific end-users—“good design is about seeing and communicating clearly.” Moreover, it’s about “seeing things from the clients point of view…designers learn pretty quickly that is not about Me, it’s about You.”

MIT Sloan states “we have come to realize over the past few years that design-focused organizations do better financially than their less design-conscious competitors…design is crafting communications to answer audience needs in the most effective way.

This is a fundamental lesson: organizations that apply the User-centric Enterprise Architecture design approach will see superior results than legacy EA development efforts that built “artifacts” made up primarily of esoteric eye charts that users could not readily understand and apply.

>Getting People to Use Enterprise Architecture

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There is a terrific white paper from the National Institute of Health (NIH) called Enterprise Architecture: Engaging and Empowering People while Creating Opportunity for Change.

NIH conducted a qualitative research study involving 15 users to understand how user behave and work in order to identify opportunities to foster adoption of EA.

First, NIH identified a clear mandate to not only develop and maintain EA, but for its end use:

Enterprise Architecture (EA) is a critical part of IT strategy in any organization. However, just defining enterprise architecture doesn’t bring its true value of efficiency to the organization nor support for the organization’s strategic objectives. In the EA Assessment Framework 2.0 published by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) in December 2005, three capability areas, Completion, Use, and Results are defined as primary objectives of every government agency’s EA program. It is clear that EA is not just an assignment for CIOs to document architecture standards for the agency—for the future value to be realized, it must be used to achieve results.”

Second, NIH identified 3 user segments that are each looking toward the architecture for satisfying different needs. (While the study views all three segments as belonging to EA, I believe that only the first is EA, while the other two are segment and solution architecture.)

  • Trend Finders—want to know “where we are going?” They are interested in understanding the current and future business and IT landscape. (I believe this equates to enterprise architecture and its focus on developing the as-is, to-be, and transition plan.)
  • Fit Seekers—want to know “Does it fit my projects?” They want to find a solution for the project. (I believe this equates to segment architecture and its focus on developing solutions at the line of business (LOB) level.)
  • Fixer-Doers—want to know “How to make it work?” They want to build, maintain, or support a project. (I believe this equates to solutions architecture and its focus on developing technical project solutions for the end-user.)

While the study posits that user segments are not mutually exclusive and that users can actually evolve from one segment to another (and of course this is possible in some cases), I believe that generally speaking the segments do represent unique architecture perspectives in the organizations (enterprise, segment, and solutions architectures as defined in the Federal Enterprise Architecture Practice Guidance, December 2006).

In summary, architecture users are looking to understand the big picture (the EA and IT strategic plan), justify decisions (develop segment architectures that are ‘justified’ by aligning to and complying with the overall EA), and make it work (develop solutions architecture using technical details from the enterprise and segment architectures).

User-centric EA can satisfy the various segment needs by following the opportunities identified in the study to improve EA use. These are as follows (modified to more accurately represent what I believe is their correct application to users.)

For trend seekers/EA:

  • Show the big picture—high-level, non-technical information about the EA (this equates to EA profiles) and the direction of overall business and IT initiatives (this is the business, EA, and IT strategic plans)
  • Provide access to the source—ways to find more information and points of contact

For fit-seekers/segment solutions:

  • Lead to the right information—clear guidance through understandable nomenclature and information structure
  • Provide proof—through IT investment Review Board and EA reviews that include findings and recommendations.

For fixer-doers/solutions architecture:

  • Give specifics for immediate help—through more detailed EA models and inventories as well as SDLC job aids.

For all:

  • Share and enhance—capture performance metrics on EA program and products, especially use of EA information and governance services.

At the end of the day, EA needs to fulfill user’s requirements and empower them to leverage use of the information and services.