As the shift to the digital economy accelerated, the need to architect a future-proof enterprise that’s adaptable and strong has grown greater. Enterprise architecture practices are focusing more on what the business needs, to meet the demands of business transformation, and the role of Enterprise Architects’ has evolved to help organizations become more lean, agile, and resilient.
This document presents how a connected enterprise architecture practice, that aligns EA with business, IT, data, and risk perspectives, is paramount to drive transformation initiatives. Such an approach enables to foster communication and collaboration between IT and the business, but also allows Enterprise Architects to focus on analyzing the impacts of change and providing insights on how the organization should evolve, and adapt to customers’ expectations, competitive threats, or market disruptions.
This change in the practice requires a new generation of enterprise architecture tools to support the new challenges of Enterprise Architects.
1. The evolution of the enterprise architecture practice
As business transformation accelerates, the value of enterprise architecture relies increasingly on analyzing the impacts of change to guide organizations in their transformations by identifying not only the potential opportunities brought by using new digital technologies, but also their impact on the operating model and their possible risks.
1.1. From an IT-centric to a business-centric approach
Organizations have long been using enterprise architecture (EA) to design and analyze their current and “to be” states. EA helps organizations understand how they operate across people, process, and technology.
The promise of enterprise architecture is that it “could/should” act as the intermediary between the Business and IT. But with traditional EA taking a technology-centric approach focusing on defining technologies, principles, and policies, it stays in reactive mode and far from supporting business goals and objectives.
Today, leading enterprise architecture practices are refocusing on the business because traditional IT-centric EA does not meet the demands of digital business.
The science of EA has been firmly established, and now the success of the discipline lays in the art of how it is managed and communicated. A business-outcome-driven/business-centric enterprise architecture approach represents a shift in course starting with the business in mind, rather than IT projects and initiatives.
1.2. Enterprise Architects as business enablers
In a business-centric approach, enterprise architects build their activities by first gaining insight into business strategies and outcomes, then providing support to business stakeholders using a pragmatic tested approach.
By moving from a purely IT focus to a much more balanced approach between business and IT, enterprise architects position themselves as internal consultants advising on how to best use technology to support the business. They are seen as problem solvers and business enablers. They share insights with leadership that help the organization understand progress towards strategic goals and gather just enough information to meet business objectives. When possible, they rely on automation tools to discover data and dedicate their time to making better recommendations to the business.
Enterprise architects work for the CIO (Chief Information Officer), but also the CTO (Chief Transformation Officer), or the CDO (Chief Digital Officer), and help them make the organization lean, agile, and resilient, to better plan and adapt to change.
2. Delivering value with a connected enterprise architecture practice
2.1. What a "Connected EA” means
In a fast-changing digital economy where IT, business, data, and risk perspectives are tightly intertwined, successful business transformation requires a constant dialogue between teams who are not used to collaborating on a regular basis, so it requires time to align all these stakeholders toward shared objectives.
This is where connecting enterprise architecture with business processes, data governance, and risk management is the key to unlock the full transformative potential of organizations by enabling them to see how everything is connected and interdependent.
This holistic view of how the company operates in its ecosystem and how changes can impact the different layers and domains of the organization is supported by a common repository where all data is stored, enabling the different stakeholders to See The Bigger Picture.
“Learn how to see. Realize that everything connects to everything else.” - Leonardo da Vinci
This connected EA approach is paramount to fostering collaboration between IT and business stakeholders and allows organizations to adapt and plan more quickly to new customers’ expectations, competitive threats, or market disruptions.
By facilitating collaboration and breaking silos between business stakeholders and the IT department, enterprise architects push the boundaries of enterprise architecture and play a central role in ensuring business needs are understood, as well as the rationale behind IT projects, finding the right level of language that is understandable to both groups.
2.2. Benefits of a connected enterprise architecture practice
We all agree transformation does not work in silos, yet in many organizations, each department pursues its own goals without always understanding how they fit into the overall business objectives. This is not the result of a lack of goodwill, but of a lack of visibility into cross-functional projects.
Adopting a “Connected EA” approach brings multiple benefits to an organization helping each team to leverage some of the work done by other departments and greatly improving their efficiency.
2.2.1. Connecting enterprise architecture to business process to improve operational efficiency
As previously mentioned, one of the key trends impacting enterprise architects is the switch toward a more business-centric enterprise architecture.
By connecting applications to business processes and customer journeys, enterprise architects get a clearer view of how the business really operates. They can see how processes are delivered from an IT perspective and when a process is changed or optimized, they can evaluate the impacts of this change on IT systems.
This helps enterprise architects understand on which applications or IT systems they should focus on to improve operational efficiency, customer experience, or product delivery.
On the other side, by seeing which applications support their business processes, business analysts get a better understanding of why some processes are not performing as expected or are failing to match customers’ expectations.
2.2.2. Connecting enterprise architecture to data to build an efficient data governance system
When executing transformation projects, one key task for enterprise architects is to model new applications and systems and define how data flows between them. Most EA teams also include data architects focusing on how data is stored and structured in databases and by defining physical, logical, and conceptual models.
By connecting EA with data governance, enterprise architects get better visibility on the quality of the data used by applications. They can also understand if data usage is compliant with the applicable regulations, improving IT compliance.
For the CDO and the data office, the key benefit is to accelerate Data Governance initiatives by leveraging the work done by Data Architects to create data catalogs, business glossaries, and enterprise-wide conceptual data models. Enterprise architecture also helps all data stakeholders understand the context in which data is used and for which purpose.
2.2.3. Connecting enterprise architecture to risk, controls, and regulations to mitigate risks
One of the main tasks of enterprise architects is to understand application lifecycles to avoid the reliance on outdated technologies, helping organizations reduce IT risks such as disruptions or data breaches. Because of the acceleration of emerging technologies and the rise of shadow IT and cyber criminality, the number of regulations related to digital technologies has exploded.
To make sure IT leaders understand the scope of these regulations and the controls they must put in place to mitigate these IT risks, a new collaborative approach between IT, Risk and Compliance leaders is required, an approach in which the role of enterprise architect is essential in identifying and assessing IT risks while Risk and Compliance stakeholders apply the appropriate controls to minimize business impact.
This close collaboration is essential to architect a more resilient organization and ensure business continuity.
3. Adopting a Business Outcome-Driven approach
Eighty percent of organizations say they are having difficulties driven by business stakeholders’ distrust or unwillingness to collaborate with Architects due to a belief that the work would not be useful or productive. This challenge can make EA teams struggle for success, as shown by the 77% of organizations that report projects take longer than anticipated.
The typical challenge faced by enterprise architects is the difficulty to demonstrate value internally and the perception of inherent complexity. Therefore, Architects need to adopt a very pragmatic business-outcome driven approach based on a few simple principles, enabling intermediary quick wins while building on long term future success.
3.1. Demonstrate business achievements by quickly creating a solid Enterprise Architecture baseline
Architects are sometimes referred to as working in an ivory tower, because they are driven by documenting and planning everything, which represents considerable effort and may not provide the expected value to the business in a timely manner.
But creating a solid enterprise architecture baseline, by collecting just enough data, leveraging enterprise architecture tools facilitating this inventory phase with automation, discovery, templates, and methodology features, enables not only the right deliverables for a project, but also ensures their consistency without losing time and focus on the results.
3.2 Grow the perceived value of enterprise architecture
If the end goal of enterprise architecture is to support business transformation and governance, the key to success is to apply a step-by-step approach and grow progressively. In other words, think big but start small.
MEGA has designed a simple approach to help architects grow the perceived value of their EA practice from the “Noisy” stage (where architects cry out for attention but are perceived as bringing low business value), to the “Influential” stage (where enterprise architects become key influencers for strategic decisions).
- Quickly getting from “Noisy to Useful” is key to demonstrate value, secure budget, and plan for broader use-cases. To become “Useful”, architects build the EA baseline, which minimally consists of creating a horizontal application and technology inventory, capability maps, and engaging in communication.
- Nevertheless, the full value of enterprise architecture is not reached at the “Useful” stage. Once you have established the EA baseline, start building a roadmap of use-cases, which will progressively grow the perceived value of the EA practice to “Trusted” and “Influential” positions.
4. Leveraging a data-driven enterprise architecture tool to implement a connected EA practice
To implement a connected enterprise architecture practice, enterprise architects need a new generation of enterprise architecture tools that facilitate communication and alignment across the organization, accelerate routine tasks that take up Architects' time, and provide data-driven insights to make decisions quickly and with confidence.
Only enterprise architecture tools sharing a single repository on a common platform with automated and intelligent features enable all stakeholders involved in transformation projects to share a common understanding of the business purpose of these initiatives and collaborate to achieve common business goals.
4.1. Get a 360 view of the organization and improve collaboration with a single repository
One of the main pitfalls in transformation projects is that each department can pursue its own goals without always connecting with the other departments and without understanding how the whole should work together. Most of the time, this is due to a lack of visibility into cross-functional projects.
A single repository enables IT and Business to share a 360 view of how transformation initiatives impact operations and IT systems. By connecting strategy, business, IT, data, and risk perspectives on the same platform, all stakeholders see and understand interdependencies between these domains.
This single source of truth simplifies communication, fosters collaboration, and reduces silos between departments.
In addition, organizations can better understand what data is needed or used to support projects and ensure that the new operations will be performed in accordance with regulations and with a clear visibility of the potential business and IT risks.
4.2. Save time and accelerate project delivery with automation
Over 70% of enterprise architects state that EA projects often take longer than expected, 36% saying that this happens all the time, according to a recent study on the State of Enterprise Architecture from ESG*.
A next-generation enterprise architecture tool automates tasks which usually slow down the work of enterprise architects. To speedup mundane tasks, use a solution with automatic out-of-the-box IT discovery tools and Excel imports to accelerate the inventory phase. Enterprise architects also need simple but powerful modeling capabilities to support many uses cases. Therefore, architecture templates and automatic diagramming features are a must to save IT Architects’ time when designing new applications or systems.
4.3. Provide data driven insights with smart recommendations
Leveraging the data contained in the enterprise architecture repository to make the right decisions may also become overwhelming when enterprise architects must balance multiple perspectives such as risk, cost, business criticality, technical efficiency, etc.
A next-generation enterprise architecture tool proposes a smart recommendations engine based on algorithms that leverage data from the repository to provide smart data insights. Such capability helps enterprise architects to quickly see which applications can be tolerated, invested, modernized, or eliminated – following Gartner’s TIME optimization model – to best rationalize the IT assets, or to define the best cloud migration strategy by proposing which applications should be migrated, rehosted, or rebuild.
The recommendations can be validated or rejected, and the decision is recorded to keep track of who and why this decision was made. This facilitates the IT governance process which becomes a great way to share decisions among all stakeholders.
If you want to know more about how we can support you in implementing a connected enterprise architecture approach to accelerate your transformation projects, let's talk about working together!