As I work from my home amid the COVID-19 crisis, I can’t help but think that the need for Enterprise Architecture is greater than ever. Now is a time when organizations need to be thinking about the changes they need to make in order to survive and eventually to prosper in this new world.
Many business leaders may overlook the role of Enterprise Architecture in these changes, believing it to be mainly a technical concern.
In reality, Enterprise Architecture is about alignment—aligning people, processes, and technologies to achieve business goals. It's also about aligning to navigate significant change and disruption successfully.
Unfortunately, as I shared in my "What is Enterprise Architecture?" post, this is broken in most organizations, and they'll struggle to leverage EA effectively—even during the times they need it most.
Needs Driving Enterprise Architecture
We essentially help companies build or rebuild Enterprise Architecture programs. Typical drivers for these engagements have included:
- The CIO or someone in the organization realizes they are not getting the value that they expected, and want to get more value out of their Enterprise Architecture program or investments.
- The CIO wants to improve the relationship between IT and the business. Many organizations have very poor relationships between these departments. EA can help to improve the conversation and make it much more aligned—and a more positive experience for everybody.
- The company wants to implement a significant change such as a digital transformation, business transformation, or Cloud migration. Companies in need of major changes like these are ripe for applying Enterprise Architecture to drive the change. Successful EA programs allow you to focus efficiently and effectively to achieve your strategy.
Making Sense of the Complexity
Change is difficult. If you think about most companies today, they are complex machines made up of people, process and technology. The problem is that this machine was never designed—it just evolved over time.
I was recently working with a 100 year old company in the food service space that distributes all across the US. No one designed that company to be what it is today. It started 100 years ago and every year since they made investments and changed the company. They added people, process and technology and continually altered the design.
And now, when you try to make an investment you can't pull out the schematics for this complex machine to see how it is designed. You can’t pull out those schematics and say, “OK, if we change this, what's going to happen?”
This is a key part of Enterprise Architecture. EA can help you to understand the complex machine and thus enable more effective improvements. You may not have full schematics, but you will have a much better understanding of how people, process and technology work together to deliver your business.
A More Practical Approach
Now, there are ways to go about this that are less effective. A lot of architects try to document everything to create a full set of schematics. The problem is that this takes too long and delivers little value in the short term.
At Lightwell, we take a more practical Enterprise Architecture approach. We consider what you are trying to change and what you need to know to effectively design that change. From there we focus on those specific areas to document and create understanding. This improves your ability to design and implement the improvement. It allows you to deliver the results you want and avoids any nasty surprises.
In the case where we are working with the business on either a Cloud, business or digital transformation, we’ll typically start by helping that program to clearly define what they are trying to achieve. We spell out the goals of the program and align those goals to the overall business strategy.
From there, we use a business capability-based approach that engages the business units in the planning. It does an exceptional job of defining the benefits that you are going to achieve and defines the scope of the program. We answer key questions:
- What are all of the changes that we need to implement in order to make this successful?
- How do we scope those changes efficiently into projects on a roadmap that will deliver on your strategy or program?
The result is a program that has a viable and well-defined roadmap that is aligned to achieve the desired results. This is what Enterprise Architecture is all about.
We hope you are finding new ways to thrive during this time, and that you’ll reach out to us for guidance along the way. We’re here to help.
About the Author
Mike manages Lightwell's Enterprise Architecture Practice. In various roles at Excellus Blue Cross, Mike led strategic planning and architecture and was responsible for project execution, system integration, infrastructure, tooling, and quality assurance. Today, he helps assure that our clients benefit from the big-picture perspective and superior execution. Mike was previously Executive Director of Leveraging Technology, acquired by Lightwell in September of 2019.