How to Manage Risk within an Enterprise Architecture Project

How to Manage Risk within an Enterprise Architecture Project

Enterprise architecture (EA) can, legitimately, be thought of as a risk management solution. Optimizing and aligning your strategic objectives, business processes, organizational structure, IT landscape, databases and more provides the sure-footing needed to be resilient in uncertain times. But how do you manage risk within your EA project itself? What is enterprise architecture risk management? 

For example, how do you make sure that you clearly define goals and keep them aligned with your business objectives without spending so much time planning that you never get anything done? How do you ensure that your EA proposals are rolled out across the entire organization without causing disruption? How do you even get buy-in from all of the stakeholders involved? 

If you’ve ever asked yourself any of these questions, you’ve come to the right place. As many as 66% of current EA projects fail, and according to Gartner, 76% of organizations are either starting, restarting or renewing their EA efforts. Remember, EA doesn’t require just thinking about technology risk, it’s also about process risk, business risk and more. So, to help you out, we’re going to dig into different ways that you can minimize risk within an EA project and help guarantee the quality outcome that you need. Central to that advice is the importance of EA software and tools to simplify visibility, planning and communication. However, that’s getting ahead of ourselves. Let’s get started. 

Suggested reading: For an all-encompassing look at EA best practices, check out our new whitepaper — The Definitive Enterprise Architecture Blueprint


Step 1: You can't manage what you can't see (remember that) 

Managing risk within an EA project effectively comes down to planning. Effective planning requires clear visibility over your existing situation — business structure, application portfolio, and where your data resides. A successful EA implementation project should encapsulate all of the approaches that will define your enterprise architecture moving forward. 

  • Business structure: It's not always clear how different teams engage with each other, what tools they use, and what data they access. If your plan doesn't align with how the business operates, it has no chance of working. It either won't get adopted or will cause chaos. That doesn't mean you shouldn't consider changing business structures as part of your EA project — but, you need to be very careful — think change management rather than software rollout.

  • Application portfolio: There won’t simply be a list of all the tools your business uses. Mapping that application portfolio is a critical stage in determining the right EA solution, and managing risk throughout that process. If you don't have visibility on all the applications that positively contribute to a particular business process, you can't possibly rationalize that system. You might end up onboarding tools with overlapping functionality to those you already have, the exact opposite of the desired outcome. 

  • Data location: Knowing where your data resides is critical for reasons ranging from regulatory compliance to ensuring access. Data location is crucial in understanding how applications work together and determining which teams need access to what. Combining structure, application, and data location insights is vital to figuring out how everything works together and creating a viable and credible plan. 

Traditional EA strategies emphasize planning because of its central importance to determining the right solution and avoiding risk. However, the flip side of this is getting so caught up with planning that one of two things occur: 

  1. Your plans get out of date before they are executed: The speed at which businesses change these days makes this an all too often occurrence. Application portfolios, use cases, data location, business goals and more all change over time, and you need to stay on top of these changes to remain relevant. 

  2. Never taking action in the first place: The worst-case scenario is getting so wrapped up in planning that planning becomes the project. When this occurs, it’s generally the result of EA architects becoming fixated on a “complete solution” for the business -- trying to map out a perfect end-state, rather than pursuing incremental improvements and change.

Enterprise architecture tools that are able to automate data capture and accelerate the mapping of business processes provide critical support for planning at speed, as well as helping ensure that the information you have is accurate. Rather than relying on spreadsheets and PowerPoint decks, cloud-based EA software can unify data silos and provide powerful visualization and communication tools. Fundamentally, success requires partnering an agile mentality with the tools needed to act at speed. 


Step 2: Make sure to plan for implementation

One thing you absolutely don't want is any of your EA initiatives to fail. There are various enterprise architecture issues that can and often will send you back to square one, wasting time and money, and unnecessarily disrupting business processes in the meantime. As we’ve said, you can’t simply make plans, you need to put those plans into action. That means that you need to:

  • Have a credible plan of action within an accessible project management framework. 

  • Get buy-in from leadership and across the organization. This requires getting input from, and demonstrating the value of your project to stakeholders. 

  • Define your future vision by involving stakeholders in the development of a business vision before creating a current-state view of technology and applications.

  • Adopt a business-outcome-driven EA approach that is iterative and evolving.

  • Focus on the "why" and "what" before the "how" of doing EA. There are many tools available to help with the "how", "why" and "what" that will help most to ensure you can keep momentum behind the project.

  • Address business strategy and technology innovation, and then address tactics. Focusing on IT or IT architecture in isolation isn't EA.

  • Avoid over-governance of your project, while also ensuring that effective governance is in place. EA can be easily perceived as framework-driven command-and-control. EA frameworks add value. However, successful EA governance is delivered by collaboration, communication and simplification.

  • Be agile and make incremental improvements towards your goal. Critically, EA software can help quickly integrate and gather data, structure a repository and allow collaboration on deliverables.

  • Communicate, communicate, communicate. The best way to keep business leaders on board is to produce deliverables they find valuable and compelling. Again, EA tools can convert work and data into effective reports and visualizations to show progress and keep the program on track.

Pro tip: Enterprise architecture is an enterprise-wide discipline, covering everything from business processes and goals to IT infrastructures and applications. However, that doesn’t mean you need to tackle everything today. Taking an agile and incremental approach that focuses on the big wins first will help you go from planning to action faster, and reduce risk. EA software can help you identify those priorities and communication solutions. 

Step 3: Look for hidden costs

We hate to be the bearer of bad news, but making changes usually costs more than you think. Hidden costs can be found lurking across your entire EA plan. For example, changing business structures might mean bringing on new people. Changing applications could impact IT infrastructure. There are also implications for software licence fees, and that includes your EA software licences. 

For example, if the pricing structure of your EA software does not reflect how you intend to use it, you could end up having to restrict access or, even worse, police usage. Budget overruns due to hidden license costs will also dent your credibility and could be potentially terminal for the project.

Understanding the exact price of EA tools isn't easy. The overall cost of software has to consider the cost of a license, subscription fees, training, customization, hardware, maintenance, support, and other related service costs. It's essential to consider all of these costs to understand the system's "total cost of ownership” (TCO). Where possible, as a starting position, look for simple, understandable pricing structures — cloud-based SaaS services are usually the best place to start.

EA software is a risk management tool

It’s more important than ever that businesses are able to withstand shocks and challenges whilst structurally being able to grow and innovate effectively. To succeed, they must concentrate on digital transformation and optimization, and EA done well is vital to that aim. 

Through understanding your digital landscape, avoiding data silos and planning far in advance, you can become a more effective, efficient and resilient organization. EA can deliver that exact outcome, but only if your EA project doesn’t become a risk in and of itself, and that means taking enterprise architecture risk management seriously. EA software is critical to delivering the visibility, visualization, communication and planning capabilities required to avoid risk while generating quality EA outcomes. 

At Orbus, we’ve developed a leading, cloud-based EA tool able to de-risk your EA implementation while focusing you on the most important incremental steps to an optimized EA outcome. To find out the best way to implement and de-risk any EA project, book a free demo of iServer365 today.