Turning Enterprise Architecture from an Expense into an Asset

Turning Enterprise Architecture from an Expense into an Asset

The difficult economic conditions that organizations (and governments) are facing globally are placing management teams under immense pressure to cut costs and reduce overhead

Operating an enterprise architecture practice is an expensive and time consuming exercise, which is attracting the attention of financial managers focused on cutting expenses and strategic management teams working to reduce headcount. 

Under these conditions, the architecture team must convince senior management that the cost of maintaining the architecture practice will upgrade a business asset rather than being mere maintenance. The former would mean that the organization can capitalize the expense, while the latter is a good excuse to close the practice. 

The architecture management team (and sponsors) are now confronted with the question of what assets in the organization they must create or extend. Answering the question without going into a philosophical explanation is sometimes very difficult, but it could be as straight forward as: “Our EA practice is creating intangible information assets, which are non-physical resources, but they add value to the organization because they give [your business] an advantage in the marketplace. Furthermore, the output produced by the team will support information-related activities. These activities will be negatively affected if the architecture artifacts are removed or allowed to deteriorate”. For the above statement to be true, the architecture artifacts must be referenced and used within the organization by all significant projects and change initiatives. 

In this blog we will highlight the engagement mechanisms that the architecture team must implement to ensure that the deliverables they produce are used on a continued basis, thus creating a valuable information asset for the organization. 

The Stakeholder Engagement Model 

The stakeholder engagement model links companywide governance structures with project management structures, resulting in better aligned and coordinated projects that adhere to the architectures and blueprints defined for the organization. 

We will highlight the four key steps that must be taken to ensure a functioning Stakeholder Engagement Model. 

Step 1: Establish architecture governance on a companywide IT Governance body 

Enterprise Architecture deliverables are information assets in an organization and thus must be treated as such by the management team. The assets must be placed under Information Governance control, meaning that IT governance structures must take accountability for the architecture and also the realization of value from the architecture deliverables. 

Such IT Governance structures might be an IT Steering Committee, Architecture Board, IT Design Authority, Centre of Practice or a specific organizational management team. This authority must be educated to be able to interpret the architecture information presented to them so that the impacts of the decisions taken are understood.  

Without a central steering committee or governing body, no lasting architecture change can be affected, leaving the organization vulnerable to maverick project implementations without proper control over diversity, standards and re-use of architecture assets. 

Step 2: Align the Business Program Prioritization process with the Architecture Roadmap 

The financial department in an organization is usually responsible for the investment management and appraisal of new projects. The main objective of investment management is to ensure that the organization’s investment programs deliver an economic benefit at an acceptable cost within a specified risk range. 

The financial department will have an implemented management framework that allows the organization to identify business requirements, develop a clear understanding of candidate investment programs, analyze the alternatives, define the program and, finally, document a detailed business case per project. 

Management Framework Interactions 

If the Enterprise Architecture processes are not aligned with financial investment appraisal processes, then the organization will not realize the benefit from the architecture initiatives. Any potential architecture solutions identified by the architecture team must be aligned with the financial aspects of the business case required by the financial department. Only when all the initiatives are assessed for dependencies, costs, and business benefit can the program prioritization be performed as an integrated, organization driven initiative, not an EA or finance initiative. 

Step 3: Implement standardized Project Management practices 

Without a formalized framework to manage projects, organizations will not be able to benefit from implementing Enterprise Architecture practices. Formal project management practices enable an organization to reduce risk and manage change with predictable results. Without an enterprise project management methodology, there is no predictable mechanism to ensure that architecture blueprints are realized within the organization. 

Step 4: Perform Architecture Compliance Review 

Architecture roadmaps are realized using implementation projects that are executed throughout all departments within an organization. To ensure that the projects are aligned with the blueprints and architectures designed the architecture team should follow the guidelines of their chosen framework, such as TOGAF 9.2’s Architecture Development Method


Architecture development is an expensive exercise for an organization and if the architecture is not realizing value through a series of implementation projects then the business is justified in calling the Chief Architect to account for the reasons why. 

Organizations can take the architecture beyond development by providing the following four steps: 

  • Step 1: Establish architecture governance on a companywide IT Governance body  

  • Step 2: Align the Business Program Prioritization process with the Architecture Roadmap  

  • Step 3: Implement standardized Project Management practices  

  • Step 4: Perform Architecture Compliance Review 

As a final point, operational changes within the organization have a big influence on the value of the architecture. If there is no change management or governed change processes implemented as part of the operational management framework in the organization, then the architecture value will decline very quickly. The proper positioning of an Architecture governance authority will counter that threat.