Understanding Enterprise Architecture (EA)
Welcome to the first post in our Enterprise Architecture blog and video series. In this series, we'll explore the importance of EA in achieving business goals, highlight best practices, discuss pitfalls to avoid, and examine how organizations are leveraging EA to maximize value from their technology investments. Check out the video or read the transcript below.
My name is Mike Cardillo, and I run the Enterprise Architecture practice for Lightwell. I've been in IT for about 30-35 years, and I've been doing Enterprise Architecture for about 20-25 years.
I've spent the last 10 years in consulting in Enterprise Architecture and have helped companies with creating and running EA programs, as well as building strategies such as digital strategies, transformation strategies—and how we use Enterprise Architecture to drive the business.
Enterprise Architecture is about how you align your business investments—your projects essentially—with your business goals and objectives, and that is broken in most organizations.
A lot of companies have some high-level business goals and objectives, but then they just launch projects. In that situation, it's really difficult to rationalize the projects against the goals and objectives of the organization. Ultimately, these companies are not successful in achieving their business plan.
So, one of the key things about Enterprise Architecture is really helping you make sure you're making the right investments at the right time, and that they’re well-aligned with those business goals and objectives.
That's really what we try to help companies do, and in most places, it’s a challenge because it's been broken for a long time, and they don't quite know how to do that planning and business road mapping.
Defining Enterprise Architecture
One of the key things when we start with a client is to define Enterprise Architecture. Most people understand EA, but it is essential to get on the same page in terms of how we look at it versus how they look at it.
I look at Enterprise Architecture as all about alignment to the business goals and objectives—what you're trying to achieve. There are technical aspects to that, and there are also business and investment aspects of that. Enterprise Architecture should span that entire end-to-end process.
So, we define it as 1) what are your business goals and objectives, and 2) what investments are you going to make—which are typically projects to achieve those goals. That is how you ensure that those are the right projects at the right time. That's a key part of Enterprise Architecture.
Implementing Enterprise Architecture
Once you launch the projects, then it moves more into the implementation, and there you're trying to make sure that the designs and the implementations are aligned to your future state which you've defined in terms of technology and business. You are also trying to make sure that people make the right decisions with the right information. When you string all that together end-to-end, you have Enterprise Architecture and success in your business plan.
At many of the places that I go, Enterprise Architecture has been or is a very technical exercise. There are people focused on standards, designs, networks and infrastructure—they are focused on technology.
It's important to have these technology standards, but if you really think about Enterprise Architecture from an enterprise perspective, it's much broader that than that. You can achieve much higher value if your EA Program is more than just a technical program.
So, again, back to the concept that this is about alignment to business goals and objectives—in our EA operating model which is a core element of how we organize this, we have a whole section that focuses on doing the right things at the right time and the business planning component of EA.
Once you've launched those projects and you know you're doing the right things at the right time, then the more technical aspects come into play—to deal with: “Are we aligned to our standards?” “Are we aligned to our patterns?” and “Are people designing the way we want in order to get to our future state?” And that's the second portion of our model.
From there our model gets to how you actually operate those applications and systems, and how you do that in a way that is aligned to your business goals and objectives.
These three focus areas of our approach ensure that you have a comprehensive model that is much more than technology design—it's really about the design of the enterprise.
We’ll explore these topics and more in-depth in our upcoming posts.
If your company needs assistance with improving its Enterprise Architecture, feel free to reach out to us. We'll be happy to help.
If you're interested in evaluating your company's current EA capabilities at a high level, we invite you to check out our easy online Enterprise Architecture Maturity Assessment below. It takes under ten minutes and you'll get some helpful ideas and recommendations.
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.