Flaunting the Value of Enterprise Architecture

peacock feathers

Gain Business Buy-in by Improving the ROI of Enterprise Architecture

It is a dance that for many architects is old, tedious and frustrating: the back and forth as they build a business case and undertake the arduous internal sell of enterprise architecture into the wider business. The number one objection? The absence of prima facie business value. This issue is often further exacerbated by the difficulty in defining or understanding enterprise architecture.

So how to explain traditional enterprise architecture? And what techniques can be used to demonstrate the value? Typically, it incorporates a number of activities such as business process modeling, application portfolio management, technology landscape mapping and so on. But, unfortunately, none of these activities are likely to grab the attention of the business leaders. Indeed, the most likely head turner will be the cost of the enterprise architecture practice without any immediate, or indeed obvious, return.

The challenge then is to shortcut and tangibly demonstrate the return on investment. The following steps provide a useful benchmark:

  1. Conducting an initial architecture maturity assessment provides a maturity benchmark used for SWOT analyses and strategic management processes. Furthermore, it widens and improves stakeholder understanding of architectural domains and goals.
  2. A briefing scope exercise develops measurable key performance areas within the project and environment, helping shape the initiative and timeframe for business goals and ultimately, a measurable ROI.
  3. Carrying out stakeholder analysis and identifying pertinent deliverables to the project makes it possible to create measurable KPIs. This can be supported by associated deliverables with strict timeframes for delivery.
  4. Assessing KPIs and working with stakeholders for feedback highlights areas ripe for improvement.

Talking the Right Language

It can be very easy for architects to suddenly get technical, or to demonstrate the capabilities of EA at an operational level trying to get buy-in. However, in reality, the CIO or CEO is interested in a number of key requirements. They are more interested in the results rather than how. And ROI is at the top of their priority list.

High-level roadmaps can be used to facilitate investment discussion, improve planning and resource allocation/costs. It allows for technical innovation and provides a clear route to facilitate new technology being driven from the top down; from migrating to a cloud infrastructure to introducing an artificial intelligence initiative. Moreover, it applies a clear route for these projects to be communicated out to the wider business. Enterprise architecture will ultimately help rationalize the landscape, provide clear visibility about where spiraling costs and expenditure can be reduced, at the same time as mitigating risk and non-compliance.

Bringing Agility to Enterprise Architecture

Agile enterprise architecture is an ideal, all-encompassing solution. At a mature and effective level, it provides visibility and two week sprints for ROI, dramatically shortening the lifecycle of the “plan, do, check, adjust” process and ensuring stakeholder expectations are constantly managed.

From an architectural perspective, however, it is nonetheless vital not to lose sight of the bigger picture, as is always a danger when reducing a project into shorter, faster sprints. A high-level architecture roadmap based on the organization's maturity and strategy provides a useful supporting output, governing the Agile backlog and overarching development.

Similarly, agility must be infused throughout the business and the enterprise architecture initiative should be recognized as providing a company-wide framework that bridges the gap across different siloes. If everyone is singing from the same hymn sheet; delivering tangible deliverables and KPIs becomes that much easier. Such a holistic approach enables organizational transparency, standardization and utilize a common baseline to work from.

Providing a robust framework for faster ROI does not need to be an overly complex solution. Nor does the conversation to demonstrate potential value through enterprise architecture need to be a lengthy technical discussion involving complex A-0 size architectural diagrams.

Ultimately, the right planning and approach, coupled with implementing a short-cycle architecture approach such as Agile, positions enterprise architecture as an investment and not just a recommendation; this will get the business’s attention.