The Right use of Enterprise Architecture
by Sharon Flemings

McKinsey recently released a new whitepaper on why business needs should drive IT architecture (http://ow.ly/1yUHu). There has been a lot of discussion on this very topic over the past years. So why are we still talking about it?

There are some excellent points and guidelines in this document; however, it still does not address the underlying problem with the enterprise architecture "movement". This article is written for the Chief Information Officer (CIO), providing lessons learned and even a “checklist” to “revolutionize architecture management”.

The authors present a case study of a global investment bank, and its attempt to implement Enterprise Architecture Management (EAM). The bank initially undertook the effort in order to consolidate an unwieldy technical infrastructure as a result of mergers, acquisitions and expansion. Unfortunately, like most organizations attempting to implement EA, the effort was initiated 1) for the wrong reason, 2) by the wrong department, and 3) with the wrong goal.

Undertake it for the right reason
In this particular case study, it was IT which initiated the effort to streamline the technical infrastructure burgeoning under the weight of myriad applications.
By definition, EAM has the business as its focus point - not the technology. While an unwieldy infrastructure is certainly a reasonable and logical reason to undertake an EAM initiative, the technical “plumbing” should be invisible to business end users and should not be the focus of a comprehensive EAM effort. Technical infrastructure is only one “view” of the enterprise – one most users should never see. If IT is driving the EAM initiative, the effort should be focused solely on the technical view of the enterprise.

Select the right owner
One of the issues identified in the case study was the wrong owner for the effort. In any EAM initiative, it is imperative that a business owner is identified that has the ability and authority to initiate any changes required in order to implement the EAM initiative. In this particular instance, however, a business owner was expected to take ownership of the technical architecture infrastructure project. This is not a logical choice, since business users should not even be aware of the infrastructure. Rather, the CIO or Operations Director is the logical choice for this particular initiative. These are the people responsible for the business processes impacted by this “view” of the organization – not the business users.

“It’s the business, stupid”
The goal of this infrastructure initiative was to unscramble the tangle of applications that were supporting the business at the time. Again, a worth initiative undoubtedly contributing to cost containment; however, enterprise architecture is not about the technology – it's about the business and how it can operate more effectively and efficiently. As long as initiatives are focused on software and hardware, organizations will never be successful in implementing EAM with business partners as leads.

Remember, enterprise architecture is a powerful and valuable tool to assist an organization in understanding business processes and their interactions, applications supporting the enterprise and data flows through the organization. The key, however, is that it is the business which must drive the EAM initiative. Don't get me wrong - IT can certainly be the catalyst for starting such an undertaking but in the end, it is the business which must understand and appreciate the value EAM can provide.

The key to a successful EAM initiative is in starting for the right reason, with the right leader, and with the right goal.

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