Best practices in enterprise architecture
By Aaron Tan Dani, Chief Architect of ATD Solution
Having been so many years in the IT industry, I have implemented many enterprise architecture (EA) projects. What I want to share here now, are some misperceptions that the industry has about enterprise architecture, and main reasons why, they can fail.
The first lesson I have to share, is that enterprise architects should not focus too much on frameworks. When it comes to implementing digital EA projects, frameworks are supposed to define and help organisations utilise enterprise architecture, via tools and approaches.
Most organisations treat frameworks like the bible. But, there are no two businesses that are the same, so there is no one right framework to use.
But, instead of adhering to frameworks as though they are engraved in stone, architects need to customise frameworks, and if need be, mix and match them so that they serve the organisation’s need and purpose.
Examples of frameworks include Zachman, TOGAF, FEAF (Federal Enterprise Architecture Framework), and DoDAF (Department of Defense Architecture Framework).
The main reason EA fails is because some architects are too detailed, and this impedes the speed of adoption. Also, knowing which framework to use, requires skills to come to the fore. For an organisation that does not have the talent with skills or experience, it can be daunting to know where to start.
In this scenario, the organisation would need to engage consultation and/or coaching services, to help bring themselves up to speed in terms of skills and knowledge,” he advised.
Right tools for the right job
Over the years, I have also observed that most organisations view and use EA tools, as tools to design or manage documents. Because, we are in a digital era, so tasks like designing and document management, are being digitised, and EA tools are being used to do this.
But, this narrow view, under-utilises the potential of these tools. Enterprise architecture is still somewhat manual. It also involves analysis and insights gathering.
EA tools have evolved through the ages, and today they are more than just design tools. In general, EA tools can help you quickly create an accurate blueprint of your enterprise. From there, you would be able to, for example, track the actual relation between objective, goal and a business driver.
This way you should be able to assess whether strategies are successfully implemented, or aligned with the organisation’s objectives.
In an extremely cluttered environment, there are also EA tools that can help run proof tests, so you can see the implications of certain decisions, like retiring a technology component.
Analysis via these tools, facilitates architects to gain insight, as well as speed up adoption, via collaboration among the different stakeholders.”
Most EA tools are also user-friendly. “Instead of architects doing all the work, like verifying and updating artefacts, business users can do these themselves, and begin to own the business process.
This way, architects can focus on their main role, which is to help management change and transform the organisation.
Stakeholder engagement is also very important. Stakeholders can provide relevant concerns to address, and future vision of the organisation. These tend to be the decision makers, and even focus groups, not sales and marketing teams, that represent the customers.
Mindset and misperception
Another difficult challenge towards many EA implementations, is mindset.
There is some change compared to when implementation first started, an organisation can understand that the whole endeavour isn’t a project with an end-date. But, it requires a change in culture as well, and in the way things are being done.
Skillsets are important, to apply enterprise architecture, on a day-to-day basis, and realise organisational goals.
But, I also believe that the whole initiative should be driven by the business, and if there is top-down involvement, all the better.
Another common mistake that ties in to the mindset challenge, is the view that enterprise architecture can be outsourced. The problem with this thinking is that the organisation will not know the rationale behind certain decisions and actions.
Thinking of EA as a consultant’s deliverable, is a surefire way of not being able to continue and sustain EA initiatives, once the consultant completes their documentation and leaves the organisation to their own devices.
I reiterate this again: Change management must not be a separate effort. It must be included in the whole EA initiative so challenges can be mitigated as they come up, along the way.
This way, there is better success rate for EA.