Sunday, February 10, 2013

Is EA A Strategy

From Wikipedia: Enterprise architecture (EA) is the process of translating business vision and strategy into effective enterprise change by creating, communicating and improving the key requirements, principles and models that describe the enterprise's future state and enable its evolution

MIT (CISR) defines enterprise architecture as the specific aspects of a business that are under examination: Enterprise architecture is the organizing logic for business processes and IT infrastructure reflecting the integration and standardization requirements of the company's operating model. The operating model is the desired state of business process integration and business process standardization for delivering goods and services to customers. Either way, is EA a Strategy?

1. EA is Neither Strategy Nor Implementation, but Right in Between

Enterprise architecture (EA) is the process of translating business vision and strategy into effective enterprise change by creating, communicating and improving the key requirements, principles and models that describe the enterprise's future state and enable its evolution. Still, EA is not only used for implementing strategy but for understanding your enterprise, improve its processes, fix malfunctions, align technology to business, control investments.

  • Operational Model & Four Patterns: As recommended by Jeanne W., Ross, Peter Weill, & David C. Robertson (MIT), to best support a company’s strategy, they recommend that the company define an operating model. They provide EA context from operation model view: A large number of business operating models can be created from various combinations of the 4 patterns Coordination, Diversification, Unification, Replication through different levels of process integration and process standardization, and actual business operating models which can be derived from those patterns
  • EA does much more than enabling the achievement of an operating model: There is no concrete measurement to evaluate the success or failure of the EA. Operating Model is the necessary level of business process integration and standardization for delivering goods and services to consumers. Operating model describes how a company wants to grow. From this structure the strategic business decisions can be transformed into operational changes. By providing a more stable and actionable view of the company than strategy, the operating model drives the design of the foundation for execution. But EA does much more than enabling the achievement of an operating model (standardization and integration). And EA, in supporting that, is a step, or a tool rather than a strategy. 
  • EA helps to provide a roadmap for an enterprise to achieve its goals, it does not set those strategic goals. You do EA because you need a description of the enterprise before attempting to transform it to implement the vision according to strategy. EA is not a strategy,. Also, EA is about far more than just IT or IT-Business alignment. EA addresses all aspect of the enterprise by capturing the roles responsibilities, processes, functions, etc. needed for the enterprise to achieve its goals.  Enterprise architecture is an ongoing business function that helps an 'enterprise' figure out how to execute best the strategies that drive its development. So, if we need to construct a solid foundation for business execution; an IT infrastructure and digitized business core capabilities/ processes that automate the company's operation. 
  • Three Schools of EA: The first school of EA is as glue between IT and business, to craft IT process-driven EA; The second school of EA as business integrator, it cultivates more systematic thinking, EA touches every piece of organization, to ensure business as whole is better than sum of pieces; And the third school of EA is business ecological facilitator, it goes even broader and organic, embraces not only tangible, but also intangible, the last one might be the right school of EA at digital era. 

2. EA Contributes to Strategy

Indeed, EA, like many other functions, would have an input to strategy. It is true also that in many instances today, EA roles are asked to do IT strategy, devise that IT future state and technology and what and how to achieve that. And indeed EAs may have to translate the business initiatives into IT impacts and strategies.
  • EA is certainly strategic but not a strategy by Its own. EA is not a deal breaker though highly important for operations and implementation for compliance with corporate strategy. Like IT or most things in business, EA is strategy driven. EA affords an organization with a framework to define itself. In terms of manageable units and capabilities. EA allows an organization to define its future makeup after strategies are implemented. EA allows an organization to monitor its change through a strategy driven transformation. Equally important, EA provides an organization with the means to answer the question, "Are we there yet?" In summary, EA is strategy driven and is an excellent strategy enabler and facilitator. 
  • Two different orientations - two different classes of EA beast. Some will start with understanding the business goals and pain points and explore how to leverage the capabilities of different resource classes to address these problems. Others will engage in a discussion around the opportunities that latest technology developments offer in the way of business advantage.  EA can drive both long term environmental shifts that form the context for business and IT strategy, and that EA can be a big part of ensuring that IT activities align to the strategic intent at many levels. 
  • Enterprise architecture is absolutely part of the business strategy. It is not the whole strategy, nor does it seek to be, but what is strategy if it can't be executed? It's just words on paper. Business strategy seeks to describe a future market position for an enterprise and makes assumptions that the envisaged operating model / combination of business capabilities can be realized (through a transformation process sometimes) to achieve and sustain the envisaged market position. (The challenge these days is that the market is changing so much that assumptions about how the market will operate place the strategy at potential risk). Thus, both strategy and EA are cascading, not linear process. 
  • Metaphorically: Is EA a strategy? Yes & No.
-If Strategy is Light, then EA is like a solar panel to keep it focused and valuable;
            -If Strategy is Kite, then EA is like string to keep it control, but not restrict its journey;
            -If Strategy is Map, then EA is GPS, not just about better version, but about modernization,
              automation, or optimization, with mechanism to manage risks
  • Should EA be more like art or science may also be situation-driven, at strictly hierarchical organizations, EA need add such artistic touch, to move up its maturity level from functioning, firmness into delight; At businesses without proper structure, EA need be more scientific, frame the order from chaos, to keep business focused. Therefore: EA is to frame art piece in order to delight customers; EA is also a scientific framework to discover underline business laws.  
Few business executives would be comfortable leading without a strategy. Business strategy provides directions, an impetus for action. But strategy need be more dynamic to adapt to rapid changes today. EA is part of strategy and strategy enabler.  


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