On a recent episode of the BiZZdesign EA Podcast, where we had an invitee from Thames Water, an interesting point was made that enterprise architecture can effectively enable companies to predict the future. I found it quite relevant in our fast–moving world. Nowadays businesses are competing more aggressively than ever, and the marketplace is constantly presenting organizations with new challenges. The result is that they need to operate with a keen eye on the future.
All enterprises have an architecture. They all have systems that are interlinked, and these come together to fulfil a certain function, realize processes etc. Now, when talking about these architectures, if you look towards the designed end of the spectrum, you’ll likely find organizations that are above average in terms of process efficiency, minimizing waste, return on investments. In other words, well-run organizations.
On the other hand, towards the organic, or ad-hoc, end of the spectrum, you’ll find more complex architectures and therefore more instances of resources misallocation, mismanagement, higher levels of risk, as well as a general lack of transparency/accountability. In these enterprises, the existing organizational make-up – or architecture – is a result of reactive management, also known as putting out fires. They lack a grand design.
Sadly, firefighting is inherently myopic, which means it ignores the future. And that’s a problem because, an uncertain future demands the ability to pivot on a moment’s notice. So, what does that do to the enterprise? Well, without an eye on the future, a company loses the ability to act strategically, enjoy long-term efficiencies, or act upon new opportunities in the marketplace. It cannot compete. Since architecture has a universal presence, why not take advantage of it? I would argue organizations in that second group could benefit substantially from having an enterprise architecture function to plan and oversee change within the business.
The main reason is that EA – good EA – is distinctly interested in the future of an organization, i.e. architects work towards achieving a future-state architecture that supports certain business goals. Of course, EA enforces great structure, creates transparency and so on but above everything else, enterprise architecture is constantly planning and rearranging the future state of the business. Once you start dealing with a more clearly set table (say, once you have a clean capability map or application portfolio for your organization), suddenly it’s possible to start making solid inferences and projections based on facts. The hidden connections become apparent.
In the area of APM, for example, rationalizing an extensive applications landscape is very complex work. Different areas of the business will have various applications retired at different times. Applications support a wide range of processes, business capabilities, or strategic initiatives. Without a clear overview of the links between them, or their risk exposure, change enablers are acting in the dark. It’s nearly impossible to say how retiring certain software impacts the wider application landscape, or key business capabilities.
During the podcast, our guest Cameron Spence actually approaches this subject and explains in more detail how they accurately predicted spending as part of a 5-year cycle starting from EA diagrams in BiZZdesign HoriZZon diagrams (enhanced, with data from various sources so as to correctly gauge timelines, costs and wider ecosystem impact). The principles at work during their initiative will just as well enable a bank, manufacturer or retailer – this isn’t specific to Thames Water.
Architecture is a part of any organization. Whether you are proactive and work to shape it, or not, is usually a difference maker between successful and unsuccessful enterprises. So leverage EA in your business instead of constantly putting out fires, and enjoy predictability, flexibility and control. Here is the BiZZdesign EA Podcast. Thank you!
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