Saturday, May 18, 2013

EA Food Chain - Enterprise Architecture from Business Strategy to Operating Systems

Hard to add to the self explanatory picture above! Even though I am a technologist at heart, the discerning reader will surely appreciate the hogging of real estate by the word "Business". After all, that is what it is all about.

But please, please, please remember - this does not make applications and infrastructure any less important. This just highlights the tight alignment that is needed between business and technology.

Once again, simple and sweet...

Thank you for reading and I hope it helps your own thought process. Please feel free to drop me a line with your own thoughts or if you don't agree. See you later..

The essence of all Enterprise Architecture Frameworks in 30 seconds!

Enterprise Architecture frameworks are simple in their essence, that is how a framework should be -  SIMPLE !! Before you are drowned in a plethora of EA frameworks and jargon, I believe that everything good in life is generally simple and can be explained in a few seconds. Most of the powerful business ideas that I know of have a simple yet powerful concept behind them; most of the powerful software code I have seen has the beauty of simplicity behind it etc. etc. Please allow me to sound like a broken record one more time - Simple is good!

Lets survey the essentials of EA frameworks in a few seconds. Practically, almost all of them  composed of three broad areas:

Business Architecture - This is probably the most neglected part of Enterprise Architecture, and yet the most powerful. This is all about aligning with business strategy, articulating business capabilities and business processes. We will look into it in more detail in the subsequent posts. Absolutely no talk of technology or software applications in this area of Enterprise Architecture!

Information Architecture - Before SAP, Oracle and IBM applications take us over, please remember that all these applications and the information architecture exists to merely enable (or automate) the business processes. That is their sole purpose in life! By the way, both data and applications are generally considered parts of the Information Architecture (some folks also include integration architecture as part of Information Architecture, some keep it separate..)

Technology Architecture - Ah! The trusted infrastructure and technology architecture finally makes its entry. The darling of all brainiacs, the talk of the town, the domain of "techies" is certainly what made IT popular... Unfortunately, as you can see in the diagram, it lies below the "line of business interest". In other words, "da b'ness don' care"!

Thanks for reading as we slowly build a solid overall foundation of Enterprise Architecture. Please feel free to drop me a line if you like it or if you don't agree. If you have any specific topics that you would like me to write about, please let me know and I will try to accommodate..  Thanks again!

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Creating a business context for Enterprise Architecture - Very Important!

As we saw in the last post, it is very important to understand that the most important aspect of Enterprise Architecture is alignment with business strategy. Cannot stress it enough - very very important!

Technical architecture is important, cloud computing is important, the great new programming language in town is important, the great new SaaS app that is wowing everyone is important, but nothing is as important (not even close) as understanding your business direction and helping it realize its vision through processes and technology.

One of the most common challenge for Enterprise Architects is the fact that business strategy, business direction and other such information is not readily available to them. Sometimes it is not written down any where, sometimes even the CIO does not have full access to it, many a times it is considered "none of an architect's business"!

Don't wait for the world to be perfect, build your own business context. What is there to lose? The most that can happen is that you will get it wrong. But trust me on two things - most often you will get it almost right; even if you do not get it right, the learning in the process will be invaluable!

If you have nothing to start with, here is a starter list that will help you create your own business context:

*Acronym Alert* OGSM = Objectives, Goals, Strategies and Measures - used by many companies for strategic planning purposes. Your company might use a different method, it is not very important for our current discussion.

I know what you are thinking - "Do I have to?" Yes, you have to! You have to learn how to read the annual report of your company!! :-)

By the way, this "creating-your-business-context-exercise" will be a rewarding exercise for your own personal growth. This is what really differentiates good Enterprise Architects from ones who are not. I know many of my technical friends might be itching to get started on the fun technology stuff, but hold your horses - we will be spending a whole lot of time on business first :-)

Would love to hear what you guys think, please feel free to drop me a line if you have any questions or would like me to write a more detailed article on a specific topic.

Thanks for reading!

Thursday, May 9, 2013

IT or Business, which side are you on?

IT or Business?

So you are an Enterprise Architect or a budding Enterprise Architect. Good for you!

Let me ask you - even though your title says Enterprise Architect, are you still stuck with Technical Architecture only?

Well, most of the EAs come from a solid IT background - simply because there was technical architecture before any one even knew about Enterprise Architecture. For some reason that label refuses to wash away and I see EAs playing the role of a technical architect far too many times.

Is there a problem with that, you ask?

Well, lets see - in a typical manufacturing type of business, Information Technology spend is about 2-5% of the yearly revenue of the enterprise. As an "Enterprise" Architect where could you impact the enterprise the most, IT or Business?

Even though there is generous lip service to "IT and Business alignment" or "IT is the business" etc., it is a different story when the rubber hits the road. I commonly see:
  • A large percentage of EAs report into IT organizations.
  • Most of them do not have a seat at the table where business strategy is being formulated.
  • Most of them do not understand the business drivers, market pressures or direction of the segment that their company is in.
  • Most of the EAs do not know how to read the annual report of the company or make sense of key financial markers that convey the health or strategic direction of the company.
So in the subsequent posts we will try to look at what key areas an Enterprise Architect should be aware of. It is not only about Datacenters, ERP implementations and custom application development!

I would love to hear back from you, so please feel free to drop me a line or two - whether you have a question, a comment or you disagree! :-)

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Enterprise Architecture in Plain English

What is Enterprise Architecture in plain English?

In any organization, there is an overall strategy, there has to be - whether it is written down somewhere or it is in someone's mind.

Very simply put, these strategies could be growing revenues, cutting costs, penetrating emerging markets, increasing brand loyalty etc. etc. All these nice sounding things are then made measurable by putting a metric to it. For example - grow revenues by 12%, cut costs by 10%, grow emerging market sales to 30% of the company's revenue and so on. More on this specific topic later, but for now just flow with me..

Now these strategies are no good if you can't deliver on them. But you knew that didn't you! So each one of these strategies might need some new solutions (or leverage existing solutions) to make these into a reality.

Enter Enterprise Architecture! Enterprise Architecture forms the link between enterprise strategy and its implementation in the form of various solutions. Seems like a pretty important task for the enterprise. Perceptive reader as you are, you must have noticed that we have not talked at all about Information Technology, Servers, Storage, Virtualization, Application etc. etc. That is in fact the most abused form of Enterprise Architecture where it is equated to simply Technical Architecture. There are many specific reasons for that, most of them purely historical - but we will get into them at a later stage.

In short, Enterprise Architecture is a planning function, not a delivery function. It provides the methods and techniques to connect strategy with actual delivery. This might seem an obvious statement but it is a profound one and most companies struggle with this for many years. Sometimes the Enterprise Architects are expected to provide "real" value by helping to deliver solutions; other times they are criticized for not having "business context" or connection with strategy; other times they are questioned for their "ivory tower" strategic outlooks! Talk about walking on fire :-)

In case you time travelled to 1980s and your browser is incapable of rendering the image above, what it is basically saying is:
"Enterprise Architecture = Link between Strategy and Implementation"

Please stay tuned for more on this.. Would love to hear back from you whether you agree or not, so please drop me a line if you like. Thanks for reading!

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Is this what you think of Enterprise Architecture?

Is this Enterprise Architecture?

Shrouded in a cloud of mysterious incantation like jargon, accompanied by frantic hand waving, completely removed from real world, practiced by the high priests in a top secret location somewhere, unbeknownst to any one in the company, especially the business folks... Is this what you think of Enterprise Architecture??

Do your eyes glaze over when you hear terms like "artifacts" and "reference architectures" and browse through tomes of complex imagery? Well, rarely would you come across a group of practitioners that spend as much time trying to prove their work in the organization as actually doing the work! More than 50% of fair sized organizations have little to no EA, those that do have it are constantly "restarting" it. Of course, analysts help out these constant restarts by giving encouraging nomenclature like "EA 2.0", "Reinvent EA" - and some analysts even trying to rebrand it to take the words "Enterprise" and "Architecture" out of it!!

Even though I am a practicing Enterprise Architect, I deliberately start off my post with a healthy (well, unhealthy if you ask me...) dose of skepticism so that we can cut through the noise and get to the real thing, if there is any!

Dear readers, I humbly submit that there is... This thing called Enterprise Architecture is real and if implemented well, it can give a competitive advantage to your organization. In our journey together, I'll try to look at real world frameworks and scenarios, and distill a practical and actionable EA that you can operationalize in your own organizations! I am convinced that you can drive tangible and repeatable benefits from your Enterprise Architecture practice by following rather simple principles.

Please stay tuned for more on this.. Also, I would love to hear from you so please drop me a line or two if you agree or not. Thanks for reading!

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