Enterprise Architecture: Need for Speed

Nov 21, 2014
Written by
Remco Blom
Remco Blom

Enterprise Architecture: Need for Speed

Sharing knowledge and good practices is one of the core values of BiZZdesign. We regularly organize and contribute to online and offline seminars, conferences and round tables. We recently had a very successful seminar on Enterprise Architecture in Dutch healthcare. After presentations on “Dilemma’s for Architects”, based on the relation between physical and digital architecture in healthcare and “Data Management”, we had a debate to discuss associated topics further with our attendees. Please share your good and worst practices by reacting to this blog.

The importance of speed
Architects need to deliver high quality insights to different stakeholders in the organization. But some architects don’t see the importance of speed. In our debate, we discussed the importance of delivering answers to business and project questions instantly. Many had a hard time making this happen, but most agreed that an architect’s advice needs to be relevant: “It’s better for an architect to present half an answer early, than the whole answer too late.” The size and maturity of the organizations present at this seminar was very diverse, but many of the challenges regarding speed are generic.

Seven worst practices: Slowing down with architecture

  1. Too much time is spent on deferred maintenance, out-of-date IT landscape
  2. The sponsor of the EA initiative is leaving or moving to another department
  3. EA is seen and done as a one-off project
  4. Continuously slow delivery
  5. Assumed need for completeness
  6. Talking about the architecture, instead of talking about the effects of EA
  7. Too many tasks, lack of focus; spending time on the wrong tasks and the wrong audiences

In organizations where the IT-landscape is not up-to-date, architects spend a lot of time on operational issues and internal IT discussions. In some organizations, architecture is a role, rather than a function. In such cases, it is sometimes hard to stay focused on architectural work, because projects and incidents are always more “urgent.”

Data Archive in Healthcare

Some attendees felt that stakeholders see EA as a project, not a capability. Therefore, when the main sponsor of the EA initiative leaves the organization, EA no longer has a formal position in the portfolio and/or project management approach, and you lose traction.

Finally, talking about architecture methods and models slows down your EA delivery and effect. Attendees claimed that presenting the effects of EA, such as complexity, risk and cost reduction and scenarios is a better way forward.

Seven good practices: Improving the speed of architecture delivery

  1. As-is business and IT-landscape is modelled in one repository
  2. Lean-thinking established in the organization
  3. Clear criteria for projects to move forward and a clear process with a role for EA
  4. Rapid sketching
  5. Think big, start small
  6. Invest in your network: attend drinks receptions, lunches, informal and formal meetings; show real interest in the business people, business challenges, and examples of what works and doesn’t work in practice
  7. Claim the architects role in agile development

In some healthcare organizations, architects benefit from lean-management initiatives. Those invested in lean management do not just help to improve processes, but also contribute to a culture of problem analysis and requirements gathering. In contrast, architects in other organizations are being confronted with stakeholders “jumping to conclusions or solutions.”

Furthermore the integration of architecture in the project management method, e.g. Prince2 is really beneficial to improving speed in healthcare. Standardized architecture products, like project-start-architectures are very useful. Architects are being included in projects at an early stage, instead of being onboarded only when issues occur. Some attendees recommend making sketches; rapid, collaborative simple drawings of a current or potential future state of a part of the architecture can really support requirements gathering and influencing stakeholders. Others point out that making it too simple is risky – giving stakeholders the impression that the problem and/or solution are actually not that complex…

When you aim to accelerate, you don’t have a whole lot of time to work out a complete architecture. It’s a good idea to start from a project or specific domain, especially if resources are scarce. You can later integrate these partitions in the enterprise-wide architecture you are building up step-by-step. Networking with business stakeholders is time well invested. If they know and like you, you are more likely to be invited to participate in investment decisions and projects.

Finally the trend of agile development has also entered the healthcare industry. Claiming your role in this rapid way of working is a challenge for some of the attendees. Agile is in many cases a synonym for speed, but also quality and integration are a challenge to which architects can contribute. The scaled agile framework gives some guidance to the role of an architect in agile development projects.