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Burton Group released a report entitled “Establishing and Maintaining Enterprise Architecture Momentum” on 8 August 2008.
Some key points and my thoughts on these:
- How can we drive EA?
Value proposition—“Strong executive leadership helps establish the enterprise architecture, but…momentum is maintained as EA contributes value to ongoing activities.”
Completely agree: EA should not be a paper or documentation exercise, but must have a true value proposition where EA information products and governance services enable better decision making in the organization.
- Where did the need for EA come from?
Standardization—“Back in the early days of centralized IT, when the mainframe was the primary platform, architecture planning was minimized and engineering ruled. All the IT resources were consolidated in a single mainframe computer…the architecture was largely standardized by the vendor…However distributed and decentralized implementation became the norm with the advent of personal computers and local area networks…[this] created architectural problems…integration issues…[and drove] the need to do architecture—to consider other perspectives, to collaboratively plan, and to optimize across process, information sources, and organizations.”
Agree. The distributed nature of modern computing has resulted in issues ranging from unnecessary redundancy, to a lack of interoperability, component re-use, standards, information sharing, and data quality. Our computing environments have become overly complex and require a wide range of skill sets to build and maintain, and this has an inherently high and spiraling cost associated with it. Hence, the enterprise architecture imperative to break down the silos, more effectively plan and govern IT with an enterprise perspective, and link resources to results!
- What are some obstacles to EA implementation?
Money rules—“Bag-O-Money Syndrome Still Prevails…a major factor inhibiting the adoption of collaborative decision-making is the funding model in which part of the organization that bring the budget makes the rules.”
Agree. As long as IT funding is not centralized with the CIO, project managers with pockets of money will be able to go out and buy what they want, when they want, without following the enterprise architecture plans and governance processes. To enforce the EA and governance, we must centralize IT funding under the CIO and work with our procurement officials to ensure that IT procurements that do not have approval of the EA Board, IT Investment Review Board, and CIO are turned back and not allowed to proceed.
- What should we focus on?
Focus on the target architecture—“Avoid ‘The Perfect Path’…[which] suggest capturing a current state, which is perceived as ‘analyze the world then figure out what to do with it.’ By the time the current state is collected, the ‘as-is’ has become the ‘as-was’ and a critical blow has been dealt to momentum…no matter what your starting point…when the program seems to be focused on studies and analysis…people outside of EA will not readily perceive its value.”
Disgree with this one. Collecting a solid baseline architecture is absolutely critical to forming a target architecture and transition plan. Remember the saying, “if you don’t know where you are going, then any road will get you there.” Similarly, if you don’t know where you are coming from you can’t lay in a course to get there. For example, try getting directions on Google Maps with only a to and no from location. You can’t do it. Similarly you can’t develop a real target and transition plan without identifying and understanding you current state and capabilities to determine gaps, redundancies, inefficiencies, and opportunities. Yes, the ‘as-is’ state is always changing. The organization is not static. But that does not mean we cannot capture a snapshot in time and build off of this. Just like configuration management, you need to know what you have in order to manage change to it. And the time spent on analysis (unless we’re talking analysis paralysis), is not wasted. It is precisely the analysis and recommendations to improve the business processes and enabling technologies that yield the true benefits of the enterprise architecture.
- How can we show value?
Business-driven —“An enterprise architect’s ability to improve the organization’s use of technology comes through a deep understanding of the business side of the enterprise and from looking for those opportunities that provide the most business value. However, it is also about recognizing where change is possible and focusing on the areas where you have the best opportunity to influence the outcome.”
Agree. Business drives technology, rather than doing technology for technology’s sake. In the enterprise architecture, we must understand the performance results we are striving to achieve, the business functions, processes, activities, and tasks to produce to results, and the information required to perform those functions before we can develop technology solutions. Further, the readiness state for change and maturity level of the organization often necessitates that we identify opportunities where change is possible, through genuine business interest, need, and desire to partner to solve business problems.
Enterprise Architecture helps to align business strategy and IT implementation. However, one of the big problems for IT these days is that it is viewed as a utility and not as a strategic business partner.
The Wall Street Journal, 10 March 2008, reports that “Too often, there’s a wall between a company’s information technology department and everything else. That wall has to go.”
What’s the problem with how executives view IT?
“Simply put, top executives at most companies fail to recognize the value of IT. It can help a company transform data from its operations, its business partners, and its markets into useful competitive information, It can be the source of profitable innovations in the way a company interacts with its customers and suppliers. But there is still a tendency to think of IT as a basic utility, like plumbing or telephone service.”
IT doesn’t even have a seat at the table!
There is a “metaphysical glass wall that separates the IT group from the rest of the business at most companies. The wall prevents IT from being part of the discussion at the highest levels of company planning, robbing a firm of its full potential.”
Even in the federal government where there is legislation (The Clinger-Cohen Act) to support a CIO reporting directly to the agency head, often the CIO remains buried layers down in the hierarchy.
How can the CIO develop a viable enterprise architecture to support the business with needed technology if IT is viewed as computer geeks and walled off?
IT must become a true partner with the business!
Why is IT walled off and how can this change?
- Mind-set—Business is focused on business problems and IT is focused on the technology (instead of focusing on solving the business problems).
- Language barriers—“much is lost in translation” between IT and business folks.
- Outsourcing—“IT professionals are almost pitied as dinosaurs whose jobs will soon be sent offshore.”
- IT governance—isn’t done collaboratively with the business and “the resulting IT failures drive a wedge between senior [business] managers and their IT colleagues.”
- Rapid pace of technological change—technology “is subject to fads,” which can be confusing in terms of direction, create competitive demands on scarce business resources, and causes IT to lose credibility with each and every subsequent change. Also, IT can be viewed as an endless sinkhole for investment and so the focus becomes not on optimizing value from IT, but rather on containing runaway cost.
- Executive commitment—to understand the strategic value of IT and develop effective IT management.
- Strategic IT leadership—hire an IT leader who understands more than just technology; s/he needs to really understand the business and how IT can enable it.
- Value IT for its business potential—“managers at all levels across the organization need to be convinced that innovations in IT-related areas such as knowledge management, business intelligence, information security, change management, and process integration are essential to the success of the enterprise.”
- Translate business to IT and back again—“a company must have people at all levels who can translate IT language for those outside that department and translate the language of management to those in IT.”
- Sound IT governance—“ensure that every part of the organization that is affected by IT decisions is part of the decision making process…with a full understanding of all their implications.”
- IT portfolio management—“analyze the costs, benefits and risks of all IT projects to determine how to get the most benefits from the dollars invested in technology.”
Interestingly enough, enterprise architecture plays a key role in almost all the strategies to get IT to become an integral partner with the business:
- EA helps build executive commitment through effectively communicating the current, target, and transition plan and how it aligns to the business strategy and benefits the mission.
- The chief enterprise architect is a strategic, big picture, IT leader that focuses on business needs and how IT can solve those with current and emerging technologies as well as process improvement.
- User-centric EA develops information products for the organization that are useful and usable and support knowledge management, business intelligence, requirements management, change management, and so on.
- EA synthesizes business and technology information and is a bridge between the two for the organization to understand performance results desired, business processes to produce those, information required by the business processes, and systems and technologies to serve those up.
- The EA Board supporting the IT Investment Review Board implements sounds IT governance and brings business and technology subject matter experts to the table to vet decisions in the best overall interest of the enterprise.
- The EA governance process takes into account ROI, risk, strategic alignment, and technical compliance to drive better decision making and sound IT investments for the organization.
EA is central to bringing down the glass wall between business and IT and in bringing the two together to optimize IT solutions for the business needs.
IT governance is something people tend to have a love/hate relationship with. They love it because they know they need it and will benefit from it; but they hate it because they don’t want to do it and be bound by it.
It sort of reminds me of the old TV show, The Little Rascals, when the mother “makes” her kid take the spoonful of awful tasting castor oil because it was good for him. And what a face the kid would make as that spoon glided into his mouth, and then a big smile would emerge.
DM Review, 8 February 2008, reports that enterprises are “Getting Serious about IT Governance.”
Here’s why IT governance is growing in importance:
- Growing IT expenditures—“Worldwide IT spending has grown 5 percent to 8 percent in recent years and will approach $3 trillion for 2007”
- IT project troubles—“IT project failures, security breaches, and compliance snafus are still abundant. Gartner estimated that more than $600 billion has been squandered on ill-conceived or poorly executed projects. And according to Standish Group, only 30 percent of projects are considered successful.”
- Money won’t solve the problem—“Simply pouring more money into IT won’t necessarily fix a company’s problems or mitigate its risks.”
IT governance is a two-fold endeavor:
- Value creation—“IT governance is about balancing the interests of investors and stakeholders by focusing resources on the creation of value…if the mission of IT is to provide systems the business wants, it is equally important to provide systems the business actually needs.”
- Accountability—“IT governance is the system by which IT is directed and controlled. It should address the roles and responsibilities of groups and individuals…articulate the rules and procedures for making IT decisions, and provide a structure through which IT objectives are set, attained, and monitored.”
In the Federal IT Investment Management (ITIM) process for Capital Planning and Investment Control, value creation and accountability align well with the phases of Select-Control-Evaluate for IT investments.
- The Select phase supports value creation. It involves the selection of projects based on a combination of the following factors: alignment with mission/business strategy, highest return on investment, lowest risk, and alignment to and compliance with the enterprise architecture.
- The Control phase supports accountability. It involves monitoring and managing IT projects for cost, schedule, and performance parameters. Projects that deviate from their targets risk being reorganized, downsized, or entirely phased out.
- The Evaluate phase supports both value creation and accountability. It is the evaluation of whether IT projects meet their intended performance goals. This provides lessons learned for future IT project selections and for controlling their steady progress, as well as holding accountable the project sponsor and team for their IT project.
What is the value-add of enterprise architecture?
In Architecture and Governance Magazine, Volume 4 Issue 1, an article entitled, “Architecture Planning” addresses this issue.
The author proposes that EA must find a balance between the necessity to “build and populate an EA framework with the effort to provide effective project support.”
With the wrong balance of these, the author, states: “you end up with an ivory tower [initiative] that delivers no value, or with a project support service that makes project-level architecture decisions rather than taking into account the enterprise perspective.”
The article sums up: “to reiterate, the architecture plan needs to meet two objectives. One, deliver an EA; two, deliver value to projects.”
From my perspective, the two objectives presented are not accurate. It is not a choice or balance between building EA or adding project value—never! Rather, it is always about adding value.
EA is never done for EA’s sake. That is not an objective.
Everything that EA does is to add value—either by fulfilling insight or oversight needs of the organization.
- Insight—EA provides valuable information products to end-users in terms of business and technical information. EA captures, analyzes, catalogues, and provides findings and recommendation, which is used to aid IT planning and governance, and decision-making.
- Oversight—EA provides valuable governance services by conducting architectural reviews of IT projects, products, and standards, thereby enabling sound IT investment decisions and more successful project delivery.
The article proposes that the organization should “initiate two streams of work. One identifies the framework within which enterprise-level information will be captured and shared, and the second focuses on identifying the key areas of need for projects…[i.e.] the need to provide real value to projects”
However, I would suggest that the two streams of work are not developing the EA framework and the need to provide “real value” to projects, but rather that the EA program develop both information products and governance services–simultaneously, both of which benefit the end-users and add value to the enterprise.
Further, the information products and governance services are mutually reinforcing. Technical reviews, conducted as part of the governance services, feed valuable information to the EA information products. And information products are used to conduct the architectural reviews by providing the basis for aligning to and complying with the EA baseline, target, and transition plan.
>From my experience, there are a number of ways to transform your EA into a user-centric model. In this post I will talk about the first one: Have a clear value proposition.
Remember, doing EA because “it’s the law” (Clinger-Cohen Act) is not focusing on the users!
One example of a clear value proposition is that “EA will improve our IT planning and governance” (and thereby enable better decision making by the end users).
It was not until I started speaking in these terms that anyone in my agency would give me the time of day.