Establishing an Enterprise Architecture Practice


How enterprise architecture can get the business’s attention

Sometimes, an organization fails to effectively deliver enterprise architecture. Why? They misunderstand how to apply it, how to develop it, or how to sync it with the rest of the business. While there are numerous guides out there on how best to go about getting business buy-in or deliver effective enterprise transformation, they are oftentimes underwhelming. Presenting a fluffy picture of the business through rose-tinted glasses is all well and good, but it doesn’t create the urgency or need the C-Suite are looking for when they elect where to dedicate funds and resources.

Where Does Enterprise Architecture Sit?

First things first, the organization needs to be presented with a clear picture of what enterprise architecture is, and where it should sit. Integral to any organization undergoing transformation initiatives, it enables the holistic management and analysis of business models, structures and processes – shaping the strategic direction of the organization.

Historically, and perhaps instinctively, businesses have tended to lump enterprise architecture into IT. However, trying to initiate change from within the IT department is a fool’s errand. IT architecture is just one component of enterprise architecture – which, if it is to deliver meaningful change, must span the entire business.

Clearly, therefore, EA should be positioned within a business wide change management function with direct lines to the C-level. Enterprise architecture must be able to reach all areas of the business and bridge across silos to ensure that operations and strategy are both aligned and efficient. Oversight of all people, processes and technology must be granted to enable the team to serve in a consultative capacity.

Getting Buy-In

Asking the CIO, the COO or another director to flesh out a new department with significant oversight across the whole business can be a daunting and, let’s be honest, problematic task. A lot of EA functions never got off the ground because senior directors only ever really perceive vague, unquantifiable benefits. In the USA, there is a phrase, ‘motherhood and apple pie’ which refers to almost sacred comforting ideals that cannot be argued with; in an EA context ‘driving innovation’ and ‘gaining day-to-day efficiency’ is great, but can come across as a meaningless platitude when the directors need to focus on making informed strategic decisions that drive bottom line growth.

It is far better to arrive with something more concrete. Being direct and concrete is far more like to attract attention and funding. There are a number of approaches that could be taken:

Horror Stories

It is human nature to remember the times things don’t go according to plan a lot more clearly than we get it things right; instinctively we trust these memories and do not want to repeat them. Tangible examples, such as when people have been paid the wrong amounts or approval processes have collapsed, stay at the front of mind. Depending on the situation, the drama can be magnified – mergers and acquisitions in particular put everyone on edge. If the information is disseminated is wrong, a number of complications can arise.  


This feeds into the fear factor, and CIOs should be frightened by the consequences of a poor / immature enterprise architecture team. It is in their interest to reduce risk. And the risks are manifold; data breaches, regulatory non-compliance, failed product launches and failed restructures are just a few potential issues. Understanding the implications of what happens if an effective enterprise architecture practice is not put in place can be a very motivating factor indeed.

Stakeholder Maps

Assessing which risks affect which individuals is also crucial; Understanding which concerns count and how each one affects each individual. Quite simply, the enterprise architecture function much understand which concerns to address. A stakeholder map won’t tell you this any more than a process model will automatically tell you what to change – but it will help develop a sustainable, structural approach.

Bragging Rights

Enterprise architecture is not a one off process. Rather it is an ongoing process, and therefore maintaining relationships is crucial. The organization no longer needs horror stories, but heroes. Individuals who can help transform the organization, meet the expectations and demands of the enterprise and deliver clearly defined, tangible results. By building a set of examples and allowing the enterprise architecture function to show off its results will help generate enthusiasm for the initiative, encouraging widespread adoption throughout the organization.

Ultimately, establishing a successful enterprise architecture requires a number of key facets. Understanding where it sits in the organization and how to get the attention and backing of senior management is a key task, not just when launching the enterprise architecture initiative but also as you look to maintain it.