The traditional role of IT enterprise architecture teams has been to describe the design of an organization, including its operations, information, systems, and technologies, and then use that understanding to reduce technological complexity, speed up the completion of IT projects, and improve employees’ productivity and collaboration.
But recently some of the more progressive teams have been toning down their involvement in these typical activities and exploring new opportunities to show their colleagues how they can be a valuable addition to the firm. As chart 1 shows, there are four main types of opportunity for aspiring enterprise architecture (EA) teams.
Chart 1: Four types of opportunity for Enterprise Architecture Source: CEB analysis
Click chart to expand
Helping with Organizational Change
Given the amount of change management or “transformation” projects that are going on in the world’s firms right now, EA teams have a big opportunity to pitch in and help (see “manage organizational change” on chart 1).
The EA groups most commonly getting involved with this kind of work right now are in the health care industry, and especially in the US as the Affordable Care Act has forced dramatic change on the industry. These teams have seized the opportunity to help business leaders think through new business strategies.
The chief architect (as heads of EA tend to be known) at one US health care firm in CEB’s member network of enterprise architects has done some good work on to help his firm’s business strategy and that, he says, would apply to any EA team in any industry that was trying to do something similar. Three lessons come out of this EA team’s work.
Help business leaders understand the opportunity: One of the hard aspects of wide, sweeping changes is that nobody has the right language to think about or talk about new aspects of the business; they’re usually only able to talk about the current state.
Constructing a business capability model, if done correctly, gives a common language to talk about business models that business leaders can use to design the transformation.
Answer the question, “why EA?”: Senior business managers, if they’re even aware of EA, may not understand why EA is the right group to lead the effort. Indeed, EA may lack the right skills. CEB data show that “Business Understanding” is the largest skills gap on most EA teams but that, if they do have the right level of understanding, the firm can certainly benefit from working with EA.
If your EA group is ready and business leaders are not, try to start by minimizing the scope of the effort. Perhaps you can find a friendly business unit or functional area who is more willing to work with you. And, by having decreased the scope you can overwhelm the project with your best resources and deliver a great outcome.
Don’t forget the customer: Every EA group knows that business architecture needs to start top-down from business goals, not bottom-up from technology. But as they define capabilities they often focus only on people, process, and technology, whereas they should also add information, investment, and context.
But adding a seventh dimension – the customer – really helps sell the value of business architecture in designing a business transformation. The chief architect from the health care firm suggests taking a customer’s view and asking questions such as “to whom does this deliver value?” and “what would happen if it didn’t perform?” to help identify the value that the firm can get from any business capability (whether it’s for employees – “internal customers” – or actual customers of the firm).