A curious case of distrust
Year after year, the field of enterprise architecture becomes more in tune with the evolving needs of organizations. Better connected to other change domains, more capable of delivering added value during an increasing list of business change scenarios, and so on. You can check all this out by looking at the way EA tools evolve their capabilities, or the sort of projects they take on.
Yet, for all its strides, enterprise architecture doesn’t seem to be garnering much of a reputation for solving problems. It’s certainly not ‘moving along’ with greater ease – procurement processes are still very long, executive sponsorship is as shy as always, and the expected benefits are interrogated time and again before finally any agreement is signed. And that’s strange. This degree of guardedness when dealing with the opportunity to massively improve things in an organization? With no obvious, significant downside?
EA – the great organizational lever
Just think about it for a second. The average deal of an EA software vendor is anywhere between 50-200 thousand (let’s account for all variables here). Now, you are a 1B+ organization, ok? You operate in various jurisdictions, your IT estate is vast, you’re running applications you can’t even account for anymore, you’ve hundreds or more likely thousands of employees. Additionally, you need to weather things like your competitors trying to put you out of business, new technological developments, the odd global pandemic disrupting business. That’s one complex dish you have on your plate!
Well, that’s literally the situation that thousands and thousands of organizations are dealing with as we speak. Now imagine the EA team comes along and says, “We can make it so that, despite this highly complex environment, the organization can start to gradually invest in projects that provide increasingly more value and are also better aligned to our long-term strategy”. In other words, ensuring the organization won’t waste time, resources, money on a project that will have to be scrapped down the line with no benefit to the company.
How much is that worth? Imagine not wasting 18 months on implementing some new platform with the help of expensive consultants and having 20% of your IT team working on this full-time, with everyone else disrupted anyway because the business decides it doesn’t serve their goals and scraps the whole thing. Is it worth more than the cost of a few dozen business laptops? We’d argue the answer is a resounding ‘yes’.
So where does this leave us? If we consider this contrast between the wariness surrounding EA tool deals, which we mentioned at the start, and the massive benefits enterprise architecture can deliver, we’re left with one conclusion. It must be that executive decision makers truly have no clear idea what this discipline is about; what those architects they’re paying actually do or would be able to do if given the right toolkit and mandate. Or, just as possibly, they don’t know enterprise architecture and EA practitioners exist. In any case, in this situation, as an architect or business change discipline practitioner, you need to get on their radar.
Tell your boss about EA: Enablement Architecture
The scope of enterprise architecture is the totality of the organization, and as such the reach of EA-born improvement initiatives is the whole enterprise. Why enablement? Having an overview of all moving parts of the business often affords significant, systemic wins. As a matter of fact, in the Scaled Agile Framework, they even distinguish between (User) Stories and Enablers, and architecture is one such enabler. Consider an important IT project that permanently impacts the IT management team’s operations once it is finished. If it is optimally designed, planned and executed with the help of EA, i.e., it minimizes the amount of maintenance work it needs, then that is a gift that keeps on giving. Sian van Es, a recent guest on the Bizzdesign EA Podcast touches upon this – go and have a listen, if you haven’t already.
So enterprise architecture provides that big-picture view as well as the necessary tools for redesigning the way different business functions interact with each other. EA is a great unifier, in that sense, because it makes for more efficient connections between not only different departments, but also between good ideas and decision makers. So tell your boss about this new EA, and be sure to explain that enablement architecture is fundamentally done for their benefit.