CUTTER BUSINESS TECHNOLOGY JOURNAL VOL. 32, NO. 1
While Cutter Consortium Senior Consultant Whynde Kuehn believes that enterprise architecture (EA) has come a long way in providing enterprise perspective and structured thinking to business-critical activities, she posits in this article that it still faces an up-hill battle in delivering its intended value proposition. But the potential of EA is vast, and Kuehn outlines the eight key business priorities that EA teams should consider in 2019 and describes how EA can add value to each priority. She also briefly discusses a few practices demonstrated by successful EA teams.
As we begin a new year and the world accelerates and shifts around us, it is important to take an honest look at where we are with enterprise architecture (EA) today and where we are — or should be — going.
Where are we now, really? Perhaps “seasoned and leveraged” is the most honest and fair way to characterize the current state of the EA practice globally — but a seasoned and leveraged state that is yet to be fully realized. Yes, increasingly, EA practitioners’ unique contributions of enterprise perspective and structured thinking to business-critical activities like transformation are being recognized. The practice has continually advanced and evolved in its focus, methods, and progress toward becoming a profession. Indeed, the recent growth in business architecture has increased focus on the importance of a common business language and lens for everything an organization does.
Yet as far as we have come, we still have our challenges. EA disciplines do not always work together cohesively; teams struggle with organizational adoption and being perceived as theoretical. And the reality is that while many organizations practice EA, they do not do it at scale, or as strategically as possible. The truth is that organizations do not always practice EA as its intended discipline. Consequently, the practice can fall short on delivering its fully intended value proposition.
However, the potential of enterprise architecture is vast and still relatively untapped. Today’s business climate is an opportune time to help organizations grow, transform, and thrive. Indeed, the time is now for EA to prove itself as the strategic, valuable discipline that enterprise architects have always envisioned.
8 Key Business Priorities
There are eight key business priorities that EA teams should consider in 2019 (see Figure 1). In other words, these are the business scenarios on which enterprise architects should focus their time, talent, and discipline. These recommended priorities are based on both the current focus areas of the practice globally as well as the focus areas of tomorrow. Through each of these business priorities, EA teams can provide relevant business value based on today’s trends and needs.
Some top areas of focus for EA teams currently include business transformation, strategic planning, and customer experience. More and more teams today assist in enabling Agile execution by providing the big-picture view and priorities up front to ensure that execution focuses on doing the right things. More recently, Agile execution has even become an impetus for the introduction of business architecture to organizations.
Resource optimization is a broad category representing continued focus on activities that help to reduce cost, waste, and complexity. While typically an ongoing activity for organizations, this area helps position enterprise architecture as a key part of the solution to enable efficiency — so that when times are tight, the organization still perceives the EA discipline as valuable, not extra overhead. Regulatory compliance and changes reflect the increasing amount of change necessary to respond to and comply with the shifting regulatory environment, especially due to our globally connected world and political changes.
Certainly, the category of emerging technologies is very much a segment of the bigger context of business transformation, but we’re calling it out separately here to bring more focus to the crucial role that EA plays in helping organizations understand, assess, and implement emerging technologies — and in shifting the conversation to occur through a business lens. Finally, cross-organization coordination is another area where the role of architecture is increasing and necessary as organizations pursue mergers, acquisitions, joint ventures, and other cross-ecosystem initiatives. Table 1 briefly summarizes the value EA teams can bring to each key business priority.
Practices of Successful EA Teams
Not only is what EA teams focus on important (as described above in the key priorities), but how they perform their role is crucial, too. Below are a few practices demonstrated by successful EA teams:
Unify the EA disciplines. Surprisingly, there are still cases within many organizations where the EA disciplines work fairly independently of each other or do not leverage the full power of working cohesively. Successful teams integrate the business and IT architecture disciplines from a knowledgebase, role, and practice perspective, and then work together to deliver business value and outcomes.
Position EA strategically. Regardless of reporting lines, successful teams position the role of EA strategically within the strategy realization path (i.e., after strategy and upstream of planning). While this may not initially be possible for some organizations, many are on a deliberate journey to “shift left” within the strategy realization path. Successful teams also build relationships with the ecosystem of teams across the strategy realization path and integrate with other methodologies (e.g., Agile) to provide a seamless experience to the business.
Focus on the business. Successful teams are laser-focused on delivering business value and outcomes, using the discipline as the means to achieve them. Regardless of the specific architectural role, teams partner closely with the business and are fluent in strategy, business models, the organization’s business architecture, and the world of the business. Of course, the architecture is at the heart of being able to actually deliver on the value for the key business priorities, but the raison d’etre for an EA team should be the business, not the architecture.
The individuals and teams that can make these leaps both in terms of business priorities and practices will become more relevant, and, most important, will deliver more value to their organizations and to our societies, especially at a time when we most need such forward-thinking individuals and teams.