A Compelling Enterprise Architecture Story: Chapter one

By Steve Force

Picture this scenario (fictional albeit representative):

Rebecca works at a global enterprise where she is a Senior Enterprise Architect. So today as Rebecca was walking through the hallway at work she ran into the CIO, Sabine, who told her in passing, “Walk with me a bit, Rebecca. I just got out of a leadership meeting where we were discussing our business capabilities and our ability to effectively transform our business as needed. There was a high degree of frustration in the group about how complete our knowledge of existing capabilities is, and how accurate the information that we base these capabilities on. Since I’m the CIO, they all looked to me for information. I assured them that the information given leadership by the enterprise architecture team is in fact accurate and is up to date. So, I really put myself on the line here, and I want assurances from you and your team that what I said to my peers in leadership is in fact true. “

She went on to say, “Rebecca, I know we provide them regular updates on the current state of architecture, as well as potential issues we might see going forward. I’m reasonably confident in these updates but I am not sure if the information we’re providing to leadership is truly being understood and how well it resonates.”

“Do we have a way to clearly illustrate our current capabilities and which systems support these? We need the information to be up-to-date and accurate”

Sabine added, “I want you and your team to critically examine the information that I take forward into leadership meetings and not only vet the accuracy of this information, but also if there are perhaps other ways to present this information that would resonate more.”

The CIO said, in parting “Thanks for your ear, Rebecca. Like always, we don’t have much time for this. please get back with me as soon as possible with this. I would like to have an update by close of business today, please.”

Sound familiar?

Rebecca keenly knows from previous discussions with leadership that a couple of key decision makers seem skeptical about Enterprise Architecture, saying the Enterprise Architecture group is too expensive and provides too little value.  So, she knows the pressure on her group to perform.

Rebecca knows that this is a great opportunity for the Enterprise Architecture group to really strut their stuff, to prove their value in a highly impactful way. The question is:

  • can they do it?
  • Are your Enterprise architecture artifacts this up-to-date and accurate? Do we really have an EA focus on capabilities? How do we keep these EA artifacts accurate? Do you we know?
  • Even though we use a well-regarded, commercially available EA tool, we cannot automatically assume that our architecture artifacts/diagrams/views are being updated. Many times, these are created during the early phases of an architectural initiative and are rarely, if ever updated.
  • Can they, in a short period of time and in a highly impactful way, communicate their message effectively?  

There certainly is a lot to consider.

This is the first of several articles I will be writing for this publication concerning what I consider some of the most important challenges and opportunities facing today’s enterprise architecture practitioners. This and all subsequent articles will be based on real world situations and on the experience of this author and the many resources we have available through his quest to better understand his long-term commitment two enterprise architecture success. These articles are intended to shed light on some of the more challenging aspects we faced today, with some examples and supporting documentation for us to successfully change as our discipline changes. Not only will we be looking at architecture as a practice, but also driving change through the organization through best practices and implementing and using modern IT methods and patterns and processes and then demonstrate these. In short, thought leadership. Communication is always first and foremost when it comes to architectural goals, and this is one of the hardest things to accomplish. So, we will look at some communications best practices and thoughts and then see how we could potentially implement them. Keeping enterprise architecture relevant is always a challenge to any organization regardless of size, maturity, length of time in business, and how the business formed. These articles will be for the most part technology agnostic, but when technology is needed I will stick with industry best practices and open-source examples from which one can either use open source, or vendor supported technologies which are based on open source.

I am a firm believer in being a hands-on EA practitioner. However, this is not to say all enterprise architects need to be hands on; rather, it pays in my opinion to have hands-on capability within the enterprise architecture team, which will be touched on later on in this article.

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