Sunday, September 1, 2013

EA as a Decision Influencer


A decision is arguably a choice between two or more options to tackle the issues. In many business circumstances, EA does not “own” the decision, neither is EA all about how the decision is being made. Which role does EA play? Is it a decision influencer? Can such influence be measurable? Should it be accountable for the decision outcome?

  • EA Provides the artifacts to understand the Problems: What EA practices enable to do is to describe the current architecture in views using artifacts which enables the stakeholders to understand the problem, and then provides them with different alternatives to tackle it. In cognitive psychology, the term problem-solving refers to the mental process that people go through to discover, analyze and solve problems. This involves all of the steps in the problem process, including: 1) the discovery of the problem; 2) the decision to tackle the issue; 3) understanding the problem; 4) researching the available options and taking actions to achieve your goals. 


  • EA needs to be a key influencer in strategic decisions. EA is one tool that can be used in the strategic planning arena, to help determine what needs to be done for the enterprise to reach its strategic goals. EA helps to evaluate the impacts of different strategic decisions, but it is not really responsible for how those decisions are reached. EA needs to articulate what the pros and cons of each investment option are both for today and the proposed tomorrow. EA needs to present this "strategic" look to maximize the business's benefit from their investment; not to maximize their investment based on the latest and greatest white papers. It’s great for presenting at conventions but isn't meeting objectives of consumer, employee and investor value.
  • EA can provide the best possible decision framework/process. Decision making is so hard, when unsure of priority. The greater majority of these options are circumstantially provided. but even with the best systems and processes there are no guarantees that good decisions being made, indeed the fact that something requires a decision will mean that there will be a bunch of associated risks to manage. In most organizations, the decision making happens in silos. EA by its very nature needs to change that. Whether decisions are made and owned by EA or cooperatively the eventual goal is to break silos & make decisions (technology, process, business) that benefit from the enterprise level considerations. This requires a change in the way stakeholders are used to operating and also the culture they are used to work in. 
  • EA owns certain decisions, should accept responsibility the part he/she plays.  There are difference between 'take ownership' and 'take charge". In some organizations, there are decisions that are specifically set aside for an EA to make: What should the principles be? What reference architectures should we prefer? What processes will be used for architectural oversight? EA needs to own the architecture-related decisions. The EA may not get everything he/she wants. The EA may not be given the entire budget to do what needs to be done. The EA may not have dictatorial powers. However, the EA must accept responsibility for the part he or she plays, and the EA team must have some ownership in the end result. As such, the architect is morally responsible for the recommendations. Assuming the architect is any good at his or her job, many of those recommendations will become the road-map, which the company should attempt to follow. That means morally EA has ownership in those decisions.
  • More often than not, EA does not have decision making authority but it is more in an advisory capacity. Most  EAs don't own the budgets or the revenue goals or the contribution margins. Therefore, the decisions on how to impact those important drivers cannot be "owned" by the EA. EAs are influencers, hopefully trusted advisors, in those situations, and those are the ones where EAs can see the greatest contribution to the ability of the organization to meet its business model intent. For EA to have enterprise wide impact, beyond the realm of IT, it needs to be working with decisions that it cannot reasonably "own, such as: Should this business unit invest substantial effort and money in making a change to their products and services, even though doing so will increase the complexity of the enterprise or the cost of doing business in the long run? 
  • EA is decision making facilitator. EA provides knowledge management, framework and architectural perspectives to enable decision making with transparency and coherency. So EA is the knowledge repository which enhances and enables the executives and stakeholders to make decisions and then measure their success based on some quantifiable outputs/metrics. The essence of business architecture can help improve enterprise performance; lubricating enterprise integration; enhance enterprise adaptability as well as accelerating strategy execution

  • EA has adjusted to calling themselves 'influencer' and 'team builders' via 4-step 1) create a shared understanding of the current and intended enterprise which means that more people have the capacity to contribute to and influence decisions not less. 2) Resource-awareness: Any decision made needs to be applicable in a timely manner. This requires resource awareness. Resource limitations are significant and decision makers who are not cognoscente of what they can or cannot do will always make bad decision. EA as KM tool in enterprise may fill the resource gap. 3) Situation Awareness- If you are unclear to the conditions or the goals or how the conditions affect the goals, then decision making becomes a problem. EA can provide the decision framework to help define, develop and evaluate solutions.   4) Complex problems require a co-ordinate solution: The increased visibility of inter-dependency of capabilities means that there are a reducing number of decisions which can be taken by one person. The EA must use influence as much as possible to get others on board with the plan. The EA must also co-ordinate efforts and create an inclusive world. 


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