Monday, June 24, 2013

Enterprise Architecture as a Strategic Planning Tool

EA is both an input to strategy (business & IT) and an outcome from it.

One of the critical challenges of the modern organization is the need to respond in a high-velocity business environment -fast, dynamic, highly-changing/fluctuating. In such cases, the process of traditional ways of 'Strategic Planning' itself is taking a hit.

In such circumstances, how do you see the role of Enterprise Architecture as a Strategic Planning Tool for the company? How can EA help to discover business strategy? How should EA provide essential input to strategy, also capture outcome from it?

  1. The capability of Enterprise Architecture practice is to support the changing needs of the business,: As we live in times where the businesses are constantly under pressure to re-evaluate their strategy. In traditional methods, strategy/planning & architecture decisions are made "upfront" considering the number of uncertainties was minimal or under control. However, this approach may not work anymore. EA practices should support the changing needs of the business. 
  1. In effect, EA becomes a key player in an ongoing, dynamic 'strategic conversation' with and on behalf of many others in the organization or overall enterprise. However, EA is not the only player in that 'conversation'; and to support the dynamic nature of that conversation, the architecture needs to be much more versatile and describe much more than a single static 'future state'. 
  1. Enterprise Architecture creates a platform that enables strategic planning efficiently. The biggest value proposition of EA is the integrated view of IT & business, further enabled by EA repository tool; it brings slicing and dicing capability that can provide tremendous inputs to IT Strategic Planning and can be leveraged further for the overall strategic planning of the organization. 
  1. EA is both an input to strategy (business & IT) and an outcome from it. It's an outcome from strategy because just about any strategic change will require some kind of change of structure, policy or procedure - in other words, the 'content' modeled within the architecture. It's an input because it describes the structures and purpose of the enterprise, to guide strategic questions such as:
    - "Given this structure, what strategy can we support?"
    - "If we change our strategy, what structures do we need to change?"
    - "What new options exist in structures that could support new strategies?"
    - "Does this strategy align with the enterprise purpose?" 
  1. Strategy and architecture are fundamentally different, in fact, are almost orthogonal: strategy provides decisions, architecture primarily provides decision-support. Often the boundaries between those two roles will blur, but we do need to be aware that there’re good reasons as to why they should overlap. 
  1. Carefully differentiate between the Architecture Practice and the Engineering Practice: the architecture practice delivers meta-models. The engineering practice uses these meta-models to build/change the real thing. Architecture is abstract, meta-model driven, engineering is a concrete model-driven. The architecture delivers the meta-model for Engineering. The EA Practice builds a meta-model for enterprises. It is Enterprise Engineering that uses that meta-model to model the actual Enterprise. Part of the Enterprise Engineering goals is providing information for strategic planning.  
  1. EA has the potential to provide direct as well as indirect value to stakeholders. At the high-level, an architect works primarily with patterns, but that isn't quite the same as a meta-model. The term "meta-model' has a very specific meaning, as defining the formal structure for a model. The scenario is: In order for architecture to become valuable, engineering has to follow, although EA need not necessarily depend on enterprise engineering efforts. Indeed, an effective Enterprise Architecture is a strategic planning tool in order to maximize the value being provided to the business. 


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