November 4, 2014 (Tue): Business success today hinges on fast response, whether to market forces, global catastrophes or new customer desires. Businesses must rethink traditional ways of working and engaging with customers, employees and other stakeholders. For any 21st century business, speed and agility are key attributes. Organizations with a clear view of their IT take a more strategic and systematic approach to changes for greater competitive advantage. These include developing more flexible business processes and technology infrastructures, and building stronger and fluid connections with internal and external customers. For example, the ever greater integration of technology into products and services is affecting many aspects of the operating model. Even functional areas such as engineering, sales and support are bringing in people with IT skills and backgrounds.
A coherent view of enterprise architecture (EA) guides organizations through their transformational journey, affording better focus on strategic use of emerging technologies and significantly reducing the time-to-market. Organizations that do not have a clear view of their EA can end up compromising their competitive edge. Their inability to predict, plan and create the desired future of their business model can make it difficult for them to respond to emerging challenges and opportunities brought about by transformative forces.
Finding the Right EA Tools
Several architectural tools are available in the market today. However, the tool choice should be predicated on the organization’s need and architectural complexity. The focus of EA efforts is becoming more holistic, making it imperative to use comprehensive tools to analyze and optimize the portfolio of business strategies, organization structures, business processes, information flows, and application and technology infrastructure.
EA tools should enable improved business outcomes by capturing, integrating, analyzing and communicating information to provide strategic guidance for decision-making. Enterprise architects are challenged with numerous problems that are beyond the capability of regular office productivity tools. They need to manage a large number of artifacts, capture complex relationships between many elements across those artifacts, conduct gap analysis, impact analysis, scenario planning and modeling, and present information to stakeholders. The tools should also integrate with project and portfolio management solutions for ensuring the best investment mix of projects to execute business strategy.
EA tools must address the requirements of a variety of stakeholders in the organization, and contain the following key capabilities:
- Repository capabilities, supporting multi-dimensional views of business and IT
- Modeling capabilities, supporting all architecture viewpoints
- Decision analysis capabilities, such as gap analysis, impact analysis, scenario planning and system thinking
- Presentation capabilities, which are visual and/or interactive to meet the needs of all stakeholders
- Administration capabilities, which enable security, user management and other tasks
- Configurability capabilities, which are extensive, simple and straightforward to accomplish, and support multiple environments
- Support for frameworks and standards most commonly used while providing the flexibility to modify the framework
- Intuitive and easy-to-learn user interfaces
To select the right tool, organizations must understand the available tools’ capabilities and think through how they can be used in the EA program. That means organizations must research the tools, find case studies of how they’ve provided value in a similar industry, and determine which features and functions would be of best use.
Best Practices to Define EA
EA is a complete expression of the enterprise and acts as a collaboration force. Some of the best practices are as follows:
- Enterprise Context and Sponsorship: First and foremost, EA must be aligned with the business strategy and anchored within an enterprise context. Starting with business strategy will automatically garner business sponsorship to the initiative.
- Iterative and Incremental Approach: EA definition is an iterative and incremental process. Organizations must have a long-term view. However, each step must add measurable value and EA capability, and must be embedded in the organization with continuous communication back to the business, outlining EA’s value.
- EA Center of Excellence: This helps organizations get a sense of the initiative and bring in the required ownership.
- Plan the “To-Be State”: This is all about where the organization wants to go and what it wants to achieve.
- Governance and Performance Measurement: The overall program must be backed by a strong governance framework and the performance must be tracked to measure effectiveness of the program.
- Optimal EA Tools: The EA tools must be flexible and easy to use for them to push the EA initiative in the organization. They must combine formal models with powerful visualization capabilities.
ROI From EA Tools and Solutions
Investments in EA are more long-term in nature. Organizations must gather all information about the anticipated benefits of EA from the IT and business user perspective. Analyzing the interrelationships between business and technology capabilities, and looking at the layers separately and together will become increasingly important. Even if this kind of analysis can be achieved manually with great effort as a one-off project using simple Office tools, it will be impossible to maintain manual models in complex environments, and the value in the effort will be quickly lost as the information gets out of date.
An EA project can deliver a substantial return on investment in the longer term by making the organization agile, fast and ready to embrace the changing market needs and trends. It enables more innovation and provides a strong technology infrastructure, increasing the reuse of existing system and system components, and reducing risks.
Written by: Jayajyoti Sengupta, Vice President and Head of ASEAN and Greater China, Cognizant