Why Enterprise Architecture is Relevant for The Business

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In my article “What is modern Enterprise Architecture”, I mention that business and IT need to stronger collaborate to drive Enterprise Architecture towards success. In this article, I describe why business needs to engage more in the Enterprise Architecture practice.

In the academic world, the Enterprise Architecture department is located right between business and IT. In real organizations however, the practice is often IT-driven. The shortcoming of this is a week business alignment in terms of strategy and knowledge. This led to IT architectures that were not supporting the business strategy, additional costs, and additional efforts that could have been easily avoided if business had had some architectural awareness. In the following, I provide four areas in which business should be more involved in Enterprise Architecture and explain why.

 

Business Capability Management

Business capability management must involve business – while the question whether business is leading or whether business and IT share the lead to equal parts is subject to discussion. Business capabilities are the interface and the common language between business and IT. They help to avoid confusion by providing one language, and they help to understand what is needed from IT to achieve a particular business outcome. While IT landscapes are usually mapped to business capabilities, business capabilities should be defined, managed, and updated by the business. IT should support this with tools and methods. If not, there is a high risk that the business capabilities will not serve the purpose they are intended for.

In addition, many business departments use the concept of capabilities for pure business purposes, such as describing user journeys or organizing teams. While the general maturity (in terms of methodologies and comprehensiveness) of such business-driven capability maps is often lower than from the ones developed on IT side, they are closer aligned to the actual strategy, priorities, and capabilities of interest. A proper business capability map that is useful for business and IT should therefore incorporate the benefits from both sides.

 

Making Use of Data & Data Monetization

Data collection, management, and monetization becomes increasingly important for business departments. Some data has shifted down the value chain and is nowadays often a primary input to a business product or is sold directly as data product. In consequence, data has become even more important to business departments. While the management and usage of data is relatively new to business, IT has much more experience with it. Enterprise Architecture helps business departments providing the right skills, knowledge, approaches, and tools to handle data in the right way. They provide the data architecture, roles, processes, and governance that the business needs.

 

Shadow IT and New Technologies

Many organizations face shadow IT of easy-to-use new technologies within their business departments. Such shadow IT often comes from using new SaaS solutions from small software companies. The reason is that the IT department is too slow for the business to provide what they need. They need to deal with and integrate new technologies in daily operations and projects. This leads to a list of disadvantages and risks, including increased costs, compliance and security threats. While for the business, new technologies are a wide field of opportunities, for IT, new technologies are a wide field of threats. Those two sides of the medal have to be balanced by providing enough flexibility on the one hand, while ensuring enough standardization and compliance on the other hand.

A good way to do this is by using the concept of a technology radar. Compared to a book of standards or a reference landscape, it is not as strict and standardized, but it still provides an evaluation of new technologies that are of interest to a company. It also helps to communicate successful trials, proof of concepts, but also blacklistings. While the concept can be used to ensure that no non-compliant software is used by business departments, a too strict radar would restrain business from following it.

 

Cloud Computing

Business is broadly using cloud computing services nowadays – Enterprise Architecture must provide steering and guidance. Many business departments have employees that use cloud services for their purposes. As this is quite intuitive, using the cloud portals of the big cloud providers, ensuring the right architecture and usage policies is not. The consequences are often extraordinary high costs compared to the actual cloud requirements and usage. Therefore, Enterprise Architecture must be considered during business-driven cloud projects – and this may best be achieved if the business does it directly itself.

 

The above list shows that Enterprise Architecture is of great importance to business and business should become more involved in Enterprise Architecture and develop an architectural way of thinking.

An increasing number of organizations address those topics by slowly moving their practices towards business. They do so by using Enterprise Architecture tools that business stakeholder can use as well, because they do not require IT knwledge to be used and they provide insights that business is interested in. Also, an increasing number of architects is located within business departments, spreading their architectural knowledge, and establishing an architectural awareness throughout the department. Awareness for processes and policies helps that cloud architects consider the guidelines that Enterprise Architecture provides. The result is an Enterprise Architecture practice that is not only closer to the business, but also embedded in actual day-to-day business problems.

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