Where do you start with an EA project?

15 Nov 2018

by Petteri Vainikka

Enterprise Architecture (EA) can help reduce the complexity associated with implementing digital transformation initiatives, so what’s the best approach?

Digital transformation has become a catalyst for change for many organizations. Businesses recognize the need to innovate more quickly, lower operations costs, and make better-informed decisions – not only to maintain an edge over the competition but to keep pace with a digital era defined by its rapid pace of change.

Digital transformation projects require innovative technologies, investment in digital skills, and can even demand changes to the culture of an organization. But, as with any undertaking of scale, such initiatives can bring their own headaches.

While IT budgets have remained relatively static, project volumes have multiplied. This means IT departments’ resources are being stretched thin as they try to cope with increasing IT complexity. In addition, integration problems can also create an IT delivery gap and hinder innovation.

As global consultancy McKinsey points out: “Firms experience greater complexity in systems and processes – and not just in the near term, as digital projects are rolled out, but also in the long term, as companies seek to extend pilot programs and applications to all functions and business units.”

“Firms experience greater complexity in systems and processes – and not just in the near term, as digital projects are rolled out, but also in the long term, as companies seek to extend pilot programs and applications to all functions and business units.”

Enterprise-architecture (EA) can play an important role in reducing the complexity associated with digital transformation and help to establish rules and processes around technology usage to ensure consistency across business units and functions.

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Why recreate what you already have?

But where should an organization start when implementing a new EA project? In our experience, it can be tempting for companies to just opt for replicating their existing EA framework. However, EA should be about extracting valuable data to help organizations make better decisions to improve their performance – which ultimately drives revenue, profit and growth – and any type of restrictive methodology can limit those EA efforts.

Other times they can come with a very narrow or rigid view of what the new framework should look like.

At Ardoq we can, of course, do whatever our customers ask. But a far more effective approach is to put all preconceived ideas to one side and start from a clean slate. As an organization, you should ask yourself: “What are our main business goals?” or “What do I want to get out of this?”

Also, different stakeholders – customers, managers, colleagues – will have their own opinions and requirements from EA and seek answers to their questions. So it’s important to survey what they want to achieve from a business, operational, and compliance perspective. This is significant as analyst firm Gartner predicts that CIOs in organizations participating in a digital ecosystem will see their digital ecosystem partners increase by approximately 100% every two years.

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Gartner also notes that by 2018, half of EA business architecture initiatives will focus on defining and enabling digital business platform strategies.

“We’ve always said that business architecture is a required and integral part of EA efforts,” says Betsy Burton, vice president and distinguished analyst at Gartner. “The increasing focus of EA practitioners and CIOs on their business ecosystems will drive organizations further toward supporting and integrating business architecture. This is to ensure that investments support a business ecosystem strategy that involves customers, partners, organizations and technology.”

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What is your organization looking to achieve?

Again, too often the customer can take a technology-based approach, but this should merely be a means to an end. EA should begin and end with the what business outcomes the organization is trying to achieve. Decision makers need to determine their priorities from a business perspective and agree which issues should be addressed first and foremost.

Pick one, two or even three goals and focus solely on achieving them. From there, it’s easier for you to expand the scope of the project. But it’s a mistake to try to create a universal solution that covers too much ground, too quickly.

At Ardoq we support Gartner’s statement that, in reality architecture is 90% people and 10% architecture. EA teams must develop a vision for the future, the business, and the people, working practices and technologies that are needed to bring the business model to life.

“Organizations no longer want their enterprise architecture (EA) practice to be focused on standards, structure and control,” says Marcus Blosch, research vice president at Gartner. “They want an EA practice that is focused on driving business outcomes, working in a flexible and creative way to help define the future and how to get there.”

“They want an EA practice that is focused on driving business outcomes, working in a flexible and creative way to help define the future and how to get there.”

This is evident in ‘new EA’ – an area where Ardoq is innovating. New EA is not about architecture. At its heart is augmented intelligence; it’s about providing business value and insights and using digitalization to gain competitive advantage. This means that it can provide organizations with the analytics capability to answer their most pressing questions.

Ultimately, any new EA framework starts with examining the organization’s most important challenges, and not restricting yourself to adopting a framework that limits the impact of EA.