Friday, August 28, 2009

Where is Enterprise Architecture?

I noticed a comment in Mike Rosen's blog entry "What’s your perspective on the state of EA today? In the future?" (http://blog.cutter.com/) that reads...


"Enterprise Architecture has become a mainstream activity in large or information intensive organizations."


Other that the fact that I thought the 'information intensive' observation insightful; it suddenly dawned on me that I haven't really considered the 'where' of Enterprise Architecture. Or at least I haven't spent any great length of time consciously ruminating on the 'where' attribute.


Since this quotation pricked up my ears (yes I know it was my eyes fastidious people! but the ears idiom came to my mind first) I have now reflected upon this further. The thing that I wanted to share was a learning that I gained when I very first started out life as an Enterprise Architect. I had read all about Enterprise Architecture and I was well and tuly converted. I knew a few of the frameworks, FEA, Zachman, etc and I had somehow convinced one of the executive management group that EA was the best thing since iPhones (a mantle occupied until recently by sliced bread).


I had this grand vision of a big bang Enterprise Architecture implementation that was mandated top down and covered the whole business. Oh goodness! I am cringing in my chair thinking about it. It wasn't a total disaster butI learned quickly (and the hard way) that big bang implementation just isn't reality. Maybe in the Defence world or some other autocracy it happens but not generally.


I learned two things from that experience. Firstly that Enterprise Architecture is an incremental and an iterative process. You need to identify the pain points or burning platforms of your sponsors;preferably a powerful sponsor or as John Kotter would say in his change methodology 'form a powerful guiding coalition' - I'll post abouot that soon now that I think about it, but yes, find the burning platforms of your sponsor and work out how you can put out that burning platform either completely or at least to make some demonstrable progress towards putting it out. You need to demonstrate value and you need to do it quickly. Use the Pareto Principle (A.K.A. the 80/20 rule) and focus on maximum gain for minimum pain. That doesn't mean no pain, or no effort but be prepared to accept that your solution may not be prefect. Aviod "analysis paralysis" and focus on action that creates value.


So that is the 'where' of Enterprise Architecture. Overall, you do want the wholistic 'enterprise' view of the world but that doesn't necessarily mean the whole enterprise all the time. Find the parts of the business where you can access the constituents of your powerful guiding coalition, know where to find the pain points / burning platforms, know where to find the part of the enterprise that most needs transformation, know where those that do not have the awareness, desire, knowldge or ability to allow your change initiatives to succeed are and know where the most change is needed or can be achieved for least effort.

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