When we espouse the benefits of enterprise architecture, we talk in rather high-level grandiose terms… aligning vision strategy; viewing the organization through a holistic lens; developing an interconnected operating model.
But how do we ensure that these objectives are met? How are the foundations laid? How do we identify and enforce the standards that make it all possible? How do we govern the enterprise architecture initiative?
While most people will surely agree that aspirations of enterprise architecture are noble, logical and worthy of investment, oftentimes it will fall short. If architects are too distant and uninvolved with the day to day process and IT operations, it can quickly fall apart. It typically lacks the requisite governance to deliver on its promise
Organizations that do not have a mechanism to review standards or projects are invariably going to fall into this category. Governance and review is the device which organizations must use to ensure standards are met and operations run smoothly. Indeed, architected governance is the central cog in the management of an organization.
Well delivered enterprise architecture governance provides cost savings, improved clarity of organizational structures and effective processes. Ultimately it promotes the business strategy. So why then do some organizations struggle and fail to maintain architectural governance? Because without it, the business will see technical sprawl get out of hand, make ill-advised investments, engage in duplicated processes and find teams increasingly isolated from the rest of the business.
Architectural governance can fail for a variety of reasons; one of the main being that review processes are essentially a formality. No meaningful discussions or challenges take place. Worse yet, in some instances, the requisite meetings are postponed indefinitely or canceled altogether.
Similar problems arise if the enterprise architecture team is not empowered or lacks the requisite authority to implement standards. In instances where the board continually override the architectural standards, the integrity of the initiative falls apart and enterprise architecture is left impotent.
Another similar issue arises if legitimate architectural exceptions are subsequently forgotten about. Unmanaged or undocumented standards exist outside of the scope of enterprise architecture, leading to enterprise complexity and inefficiency that undermines the initial efforts.
Put simply, the more explicit the guidance, the more effective the governance. In practical terms this means for architectural governance to be effective it must be supported by an explicit list of review criteria and a formal checklist, which mitigates the problem of meandering, incomplete meetings that serve no real purpose.
At the same time, the organizations should track the outcomes of meetings – and in particular the status of architectural exceptions – ensuring everything is monitored and followed up on correctly. Indeed, integrating architecture into wider project quality processes and procedures helps protect and solidify its governance. Importantly, this requires more than just building steps to audit and verify outcomes, but also engaging with the right stakeholders. Ensuring project owners have a vested interest in following the correct processes and standards is key to maintaining architectural governance.
Ultimately, if enterprise architecture provides the foundations from which to align operations and strategic goals, it is the governance that ensures these the foundations are solid. While governance can often be undermined and lead to architectural teams becoming just another example of a siloed business department, well defined and robust processes are the best form of defense.