What I have Learned Establishing Enterprise Architecture Practices in Organizations

Establishing an enterprise architecture management (EAM) practice within an organization is challenging due to a couple of reasons: Benefits can only be seen in the long-term, the scope of activities is usually quite comprehensive and needs to involve many different stakeholders, and business and IT need to be strongly aligned. The following is my personal top 10 success factors list for an enterprise architecture management practice:

1. Understand your stakeholders

The architects of your organization will easily understand the benefits of newly produced artifacts. In contrast, it is often not as easy for business and non-technical stakeholders to see the benefits and why they should invest their time. Focus your communication on this group of stakeholders to maximize their buy-in and involvement from them!

2. Be clear on your goals

“Enterprise Architecture” is a very wide area with a broad scope. Make sure to have a prioritized plan and be clear about what you want to achieve! What use cases do you have in mind? What will the future work of role X look like? What level of maturity and what level of detail is needed?

3. Pay attention to your language

It is very easy for IT people to become too technical and to include too many technical terms that could be avoided. Always remember that the less technical you are (but staying as precise as needed), the faster people will understand what you want.

4. Make it attractive for both business and IT

To provide value to an organization, enterprise architecture needs to be accepted and concepts need to be followed by all stakeholders. In consequence, the value of the practice must be visible. If the business is not interested in how IT exactly approaches a 20% cost reduction of application costs, perhaps the business is interested in IT establishing a “self-service shop” of capabilities or functionalities that the business can book on its own – without development work and even without involving IT.

5. Make it attractive for the “New IT World”

This might be one of the most important factors. While the foundations of enterprise architecture (e.g. TOGAF) have not dramatically changed over the past 20-25 years, IT has developed further. Today, agile teams work on their work increments that will build the future of today’s organizations. However, one of the main challenges of enterprise architecture is that it is perceived to only be relevant for monolithic architectures and legacy IT. To overcome this perception, an enterprise architecture practice needs to point out the benefits and use cases that consider DevOps, SCRUM teams, SAFe departments, the development of microservices, and support disruptive services and products (and many more!). Only if enterprise architecture can establish itself among these stakeholders, it is future-proven.

6. Create success stories where possible

A large disadvantage of enterprise architecture is that most benefits are realized only in the long term. Therefore, identify the business domains that are most interested in collaborating and the ones that are likely to lead to the fastest results. Work together with them to create pilots that lead to small success stories for your organization. If you plan to aim for 100% perfection right at the beginning, you will probably never achieve it.

7. Get technology support

There are many great and really helpful enterprise architecture tools on the market with strong dashboarding, reporting, and analytics capabilities. The weakness of such tools is that they fully depend on the underlying data quality. It is therefore recommended to limit the number of different data fields and focus on the data quality and maintenance process for the new data field required. The less data you request, the more realistic it is that the data quality stays high. Do not request data for the sake of storing it and – once again – be clear about what you want to achieve. This is the best way to identify which data you really have to update regularly and which you probably should not even store in the first place.

8. Ensure clear responsibilities and levels of freedom

There are two sides to this: On the one hand, architects need to have enough freedom to further develop their architecture, on the other hand, all need to stay aligned. Make sure that the role descriptions and committee structures allow for this balancing.

9. Communication is everything

In every organization, there are good architectural patterns and approaches. The challenge is to find them and break the silos in which they sit. Solutions are often developed twice because there is no awareness of existing ones. It is, therefore, crucial to establish a good communication strategy for your enterprise architecture function and related activities: Be as transparent as possible, strive for consistency across the organization, and spread the word!

10. Automate governance

This last point seems obvious, however, many enterprise architecture projects fail exactly because of that reason. Processes and committees are really important, but what is most important is that your work results are known and perceived as helpful for your stakeholders! Only if this is the case, they will further (re-)use it and your results will survive the “development project”.

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