The complexities of enterprise architecture (EA) aren’t exactly a well-kept business secret. Famously abstract definitions and the need to juggle parts that refuse to stay still is a big reason that as many as 66% of current EA projects will fail.
If you’re going to avoid common enterprise architecture issues and successfully transform your organization, you need to understand the fundamentals of enterprise architecture. To help, we’ve put together this article. With 76% of organizations either restarting or renewing their EA efforts as we speak, there has never been a better time to get these basics right. So, let’s get started.
Suggested reading: If you find this article helpful, the next step is to dig into the details with our new whitepaper — The Definitive Enterprise Architecture Blueprint
EA fundamental 1: Flexible and goal-oriented planning
If you’re going to embark on something as complicated as an EA project, you need a solid plan. This is one reason why enterprise architecture frameworks like TOGAF are so popular. They provide a clear and standardized format for assessing problems and formulating solutions. However, both planning and frameworks can become an obstacle to success if adhered to too strictly.
Business goals change quickly. If your EA project becomes focused on creating an “ultimate solution”, you can end up in endless planning cycles that get out of date before they are ever executed. Similarly, EA frameworks can limit your perspective and focus enterprise architects on abstract questions that take away from making incremental steps towards real solutions.
Strategies to help
Close operational oversight with the guidance of board members and key stakeholders is fundamental to selecting relevant goals and directions for EA in the first place. EA planning should then center around an in-the-moment and granular focus that pays attention to how those goals align with bigger-picture business requirements — be that through added value, faster processes, reduced operational costs, etc.
Your ability to be flexible while still focusing on what’s important is vastly improved by the deployment of dedicated enterprise architecture tools. They can automate the collection of data and creation of models, diagrams and flow charts for development and improvement of plans. Ultimately, having visibility over your business structures and IT estate enable flexibility and effective planning at speed — both of which are critical to identifying the right goals and taking steps to create real change within your organization.
Pro tip: The importance of incremental action and polling cannot be overstated. It’s critical to narrow down on specific and high-impact areas of improvement. Again, real-time understanding of your entire EA infrastructure is central to success — and EA software is critical to delivering that at speed.
EA fundamental 2: A holistic approach
EA doesn’t just have to be about technology, it can cover the entire business. If you get hung up on a specific subcomponent of the EA landscape, it can lead you to incorrect conclusions. For example, simplifying your application portfolio won’t necessarily enable teams to more effectively communicate if their team structures incentivize siloed planning. To be effective, EA needs to look at the big picture and search for root cause solutions to the specific goals you've identified.
Oversight should be applied to everything from business units and functions to your data storage infrastructure. What’s more, you need to bring this holistic outlook together in one seamless, cooperative package that supports each element. An understanding of the parts that you’re dealing with is imperative, but you also need an easy-reach overview of how those players interact (e.g. cross-department analytics, inter-app communications, etc.), and what cues you should be providing to ensure the best performance.
Lastly, you need to be able to formulate this big picture strategy quickly enough that fundamental components of your business have not changed before putting your plan into action. Again, this comes back to flexible planning and prioritizing what matters most to the business.
Strategies to help
Tools that enable full oversight of EA elements offer the best shot of holistic planning at speed, enabling one-click realizations, real-time analysis and the automatic generation of EA documentation. However, BDAT is one example of a good manual framework for staying focused on big picture EA planning. As a refresher, BDAT covers:
Business architecture: Total concepts for doing business that consider the construction, operations, and decoration of entire enterprises.
Data architecture: Models, policies, rules, or standards that govern data storage, handling, integrations, and uses.
Applications architecture: The patterns and techniques used to design and build applications, ultimately describing their behaviors and interactions.
Technology architecture: Methodical IT specifications, models, and guidelines that use various notations within coherent architecture frameworks.
By thinking holistically about how EA impacts every level of the business it’s easier to align EA outcomes with all-important objectives and increase the chances that your team and your stakeholders will feel its benefits.
EA fundamental 3: A well-stocked toolbox
Enterprise architecture depends on tools to structure planning and communicate solutions. On the most basic level, this can be done with Visio and Excel — and for years, many EA architects and program managers have done just that. However, this isn’t an ideal solution for modern EA planning and execution.
The tools you use have a direct impact on how you approach EA planning, and, therefore, can impact the types of solutions you generate. For example, if you are able to visually map connections between IT infrastructure and business processes, that naturally enables you to consider both when looking at ways to optimize outcomes. Equally, the more manual your process for mapping applications, IT infrastructure and business processes, the slower and more methodical your overall process is likely to be. Conversely, automated solutions allow you to focus on flexibility and generating incremental improvements.
Fundamentally, you need tools that are able to compliment your overall approach to enterprise architecture and enable the kind of flexible planning that is needed to optimize results.
Strategies to help
Cloud-based and purpose-built EA software and tools can dramatically accelerate planning and provide greater visibility and flexibility. Our suggestion is to procure dedicated EA software that is optimized for an agile approach to enterprise architecture. Look for solutions that enable:
Unified data: IT is important, but EA fundamentally requires models and documentation methods that consider your entire enterprise, and that are simplified from a central repository for improved workflows.
Integrations: Integrations enable connection to, and the immediate upload of, entire existing data sources for holistic oversight.
Visualizations: Visualizations that simplify your view of enterprise data improve planning (e.g. understanding where you are), and inform presentations (e.g. understanding where you’re going).
Automations: The more you can automate data capture and the creation of models, the more time can be spent on value-added tasks like analysis, stakeholder communication and execution.
Fundamentally, you want one-source, enterprise-wide oversight, tailor-made to help you implement the true change that enterprise architecture is striving for. This will provide you with the sophistication needed to embrace the first two fundamentals on this list.
EA fundamental 4: Support on all sides
Enterprise architecture has a reputation for saying “no”. This perceived roadblock doesn’t always make EA the most popular function. However, to succeed, EA needs the support of the businesses. That starts with buy-in from leadership, but extends across the entire organization. Fundamentally, this is important for two main reasons:
Making the right choices: You need help from the people actually doing things (e.g. sales, marketing, legal, finance and more) to provide input on how their tools and ways of working can be improved, and the outcomes that they are looking to achieve.
Ensuring adoption: The whole point of EA is to improve how your business functions. If you make plans that everyone ignores, your EA project has fundamentally failed. You might be able to force official option. However, without buy-in, it’s all too likely that rouge and unofficial processes will remain — undermining your efforts.
Remember, it’s all about understanding strategic business and technology information systems, and aligning that with the basic elements of EA concepts and practices. Only with ample support can you gain true visibility over your challenges and make sure that everyone’s on the same page when it comes to solutions.
Strategies to help
The reality is that an effective EA program stands to benefit everyone. Even if that means that your HR team can’t use their project management tool of choice because it doesn't work well with the solution used by the rest of the business, the overall impact will be improved communication and reduced manual steps. Communicating these outcomes and explaining how what you want to do will directly improve the workflows of everyone involved is critical to success.
Enterprise architecture tools that make it easier to not only understand problem areas, but to also communicate your findings through easily understandable visualizations, models, and projections can especially provide this benefit. However, you can’t utilize those features until you first communicate, integrate, and understand what people want, why, and how EA can help you to deliver it.
The right tools make planning and execution easy
EA is a journey, not an end goal, and your ability to keep on translating plans into action can turn an otherwise ill-fitting approach into the future-driven strategy that you need it to be. You need to understand how EA connects with your business strategy, and constantly update both to match the reality on the ground. Unfortunately, as we’ve seen here at Orbus more times than we can count, a lack of oversight, understanding, and support can quickly see EA unraveling.
The right enterprise software is the best and easiest way to stop that from happening, and that’s precisely why we developed iServer365. With single-source architectural oversight that makes it easier to analyze, implement, and communicate the standardization that you’ve been lacking, users especially enjoy the planning that they need, while simultaneously addressing challenges to get everyone else on board. However, don’t take our word for it. Request your very own free demo and see firsthand how the right tool can transform your basic concepts of EA today.