Take it or leave it, but often EA is referred as a lengthy initiative with very unclear and practically not very applicable results. Like a set of references architectures, which in practice turn to be 80% different from architectures of actually deployed solutions or a set of principles of building new data centers, which are too high-level and theoretical, so any solution built do comply with them.
So why do companies need Enterprise Architecture at these tough times? Why should they provide senior management support, allocate time of their last experienced architects and fund such initiatives at the times when IT budgets are cut up to 75%?
Very simple – Enterprise Architecture when done properly is the critical instrument for enterprise efficiency in short-, mid- and long-terms. EA impacts the effect of the business operational processes, their cost and associated risks– the key factors for company efficiency even at tough times.
Documenting the enterprise - its business, information, application and technology pieces - means gaining an idea how the company works now, figuring out what are the associated costs and risks, understanding the similarities and differences across business units, locations and markets of the company – all that helps to achieve the first maturity level and get the enterprise documented.
A company can hardly assess an operational risk of a process having no idea how IT supports the process or which human resources are involved in this process. As well as a company can hardly reduce cost of a process having no idea how this cost optimization will impact availability and\or performance of IT supporting the process. A company can hardly achieve better effect of a process due to process automation having no idea how this small automated process fits into overall end-to-end process of the company. And finally what happens if the personnel knowing how a process works now, what IT systems are in use, how one IT system interacts with others, how mission critical business application is deployed in company´s IT infrastructure leave the company?
However getting the enterprise documented does not sound to be a quick task with quick wins, right? So where to start, what to do first?
No surprise, that actual business strategy at current downturn within company´s business model within company´s operational model is the key driver in scoping the first take on holistic EA. Understand where business is heading to, understand where it hurts now, understand what are the expected results for the business (not for EA initiative!). E.g. if business decides to switch production lines from 24*7 to 24*5 due to decrease in demand of manufactured goods, understand how this change impacts involved IT systems and lower associated SLAs and by these means optimize your IT spend in-line with changes in business of the company.
Unfortunately not always Business-IT link is known upfront or can be well documented fast enough, however changes should be applied anyway – production lines are slowed down and IT have to support this cost optimization initiative. Understand first company´s portfolio of processes and involved IT in the given context and focus only on those IT systems which contribute most to your IT spend. Hardly top management will be happy with 0,01% cost savings in IT portfolio and constant IT blackouts in a core company process as the result of a 6 month long cost optimization initiative in IT.
According to Gartner the average IT spend is fewer than 6% of total company´s spend. That means cost optimization only within IT does not bring much; only joint efforts of business and IT can lead to noticeable results without negative impacts on company operational efficiency and sustainability.
Holistic Enterprise Architecture, including both business and IT sides, makes such joint effort possible. Documenting the enterprise is the first step of the journey. Does anybody want to kick off a change with eyes wide shut?