Enterprise Architecture

Peter Strempel

So far the determination to make radical changes or to design entirely new operational frameworks, using principles of enterprise architecture (EA), have mostly been the preserve of large organisations.

This is partly because EA is a relatively young discipline with few widely known practitioners, partly because people confuse it with IT solutions architecture, and partly because smaller organisations probably know little about the benefits they could gain from using enterprise architecture methods and tools to achieve their business goals.

The US-based Open Group Architecture Framework (TOGAF) defines the purpose of optimising ‘often fragmented legacy … processes (both manual and automated)’ integrating them into a more change-responsive organisational portfolio of capabilities, particularly in the areas of achieving ‘the right balance between IT efficiency and business innovation’.

FIGURE 1: Enterprise architecture acts as an enabler of its strategic management parent domain to align operations with strategic goals.  It overlaps with several other management areas that can extend its practical application.
FIGURE 1: Enterprise architecture acts as an enabler of its strategic management parent domain to align operations with strategic goals. It overlaps with several other management areas that can extend its practical application.

The sales pitch aside, in all but the leanest and best run organisations there is misalignment between business functions, inefficiencies in what should be standard processes, and the costs associated with not learning from mistakes. EA methods can address all of these issues from the top down, or starting with particularly pressing problem areas to work outward until all pertinent issues have been considered.

If that still seems vague, consider this in terms of an analogy with your car. You know it’s past due for a major service when the engine is running rough, the brakes are growing spongy, and the wheels are out of alignment, making it harder to steer. The car still operates, but at an increasingly less efficient rate, and with increasingly less comfort. After an engine tune-up, new and properly aligned tyres for the ones worn by misalignment, and new brake pads properly calibrated, the car will run more smoothly, fuel-efficiently, and comfortably.

If you think your business is running a little rough, the service oriented architecture perspective on examining how your goals align with your activities and processes can help you tune your performance.

Carrying out an EA audit can clarify business functions and activities, identify opportunities to cut out waste, and offer the insights needed to tune all aspects of business performance. The tune-up itself is then a simple matter of tweaking the way your people do things, and sometimes adding new activities to exploit new opportunities.

It’s all about knowing how everything hangs together, from your vision to your capabilities, and from capabilities to your activities, processes, and tools.

Most importantly, though, if you can work with someone who knows how enterprise architecture hangs together with practical, hands-on business process, change, IT, and transformational management, you don’t just get a tune up, you gain the capability of keeping your business running smoothly without having to bring in an outsider every time you face new challenges and opportunities.

Figure 1, above, illustrates the overlap between EA and other management disciplines. My experience and skills extend to all these areas.

My approach to EA is gaining an understanding of your key organisational capabilities and how you turn these into something valuable.

You might not always be able to begin with capabilities, because these are sometimes hard to define without tracing lower-level activities and processes back to a value stream that clarifies what is really unique about your business capabilities.

Figure 2, below, offers an overview of what an enterprise architecture might look like.

In EA, capability is defined as the ‘combination of organization, people, processes, and technology’ necessary to achieve your particular business products and services.

FIGURE 2: The scope of enterprise architecture, illustrated in the Archimate visual notation.
FIGURE 2: The scope of enterprise architecture, illustrated in the Archimate visual notation.

Capabilities usually come in three distinct streams: strategy and management, required to steer an organisation to achieve its goals; support capabilities necessary to carry out its activities, like HR, accounting, or IT support; and value added capabilities, like manufacturing or sales and service delivery.

Each value stream can then be traced to a more detailed process used to create value, visualised with the Archimate modelling language as interactions or ‘choreographies’, with underlying process steps and enabling support systems (stage 4 of Figure 1). Being able to map out the relationship between capabilities, value streams, and process architectures leaves no doubt at all about the value of what is being done, and exposes any wasteful or costly misalignment between strategic goals, activities, and infrastructure.

The benefit of being able to visualise this kind of alignment is the clarity it brings to efficiency and improvement opportunities, and to mapping out a desired future mode of operation with more ambitious goals, added capabilities, and streamlined processes designed that way from the ground up.

For an example of how one component of a simple change management architecture can be decomposed into a BPMN process model, see my change management page.

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Enterprise architectures at this level can then be further decomposed into business process diagrams for detailed analysis and improvement through business process management and the visual Business Process Model and Notation (BPMN) language. The Universal Markup Language (UML) is also a common component of enterprise architecture when it comes to technology system design that support business processes.

Organisations can use as little or as much of this scope for analysis and planning as is necessary for immediate or longer-term objectives. The full potential is to gain extremely detailed insights into the present mode of operations as a precursor to charting out a desired future mode of operation in rich detail.

When infused with creativity and skill, applying EA methods to organisations of any size can offer immediate, medium-term, and longitudinal benefits.

I offer the full range of experience and skills to provide a holistic vision for enterprise architecture, from high level strategy down to granular process re-design, including the project management skills to make it happen, and the leadership skills to create buy-in and cooperation from staff and contractors.

Whether your enterprise architecture needs go only as far as discovering how to tune up your business, or whether you want to embark on a significant transformation, contact me to discuss your needs.

RELATED: Read my case study on the 2016 online census project for a discussion of what can go wrong if organisations ignore architecture when making expensive decisions.