Saturday, November 23, 2013

A Dynamic EA

Enterprise Architecture is a living thing.

High mature enterprises are on the journey to pursue business agility in order to adapt to the accelerated changes and hyper-competition or complexity as well. Can Enterprise Architecture evolve and match such business dynamics?

Ideally, an enterprise's architecture must be a living, breathing thing to be effective. There will always be a balance to be struck between the valuable lessons of tradition and the dynamism of innovation; EA must be a full and ongoing participant in that dynamic tension. But in reality, Enterprise Architecture continues to be somehow decoupled from business motion. It's a management problem, that can't embrace it in a continuous way.

The enterprise's architecture should inform and guide important strategic and tactical business decisions the enterprise makes. Success in EA would mean "continuous collaboration" of all stakeholders involved in a seamless way. One out of sync will prove detrimental. A major goal of EA is to be so intimately involved as a full partner in formulating the strategy and goals of the enterprise that the CxOs would feel uncomfortable making any serious decision without EA's full involvement. If the Enterprise Architect isn't a full partner with CxOs in evolving the enterprise's architecture, he/she isn't doing his/her job.

EA not only should be dynamic, but it also needs to be forward-looking and outside-in. Scope of EA needs to be at the "Ecosystem" level as opposed to the Enterprise. EA should be informing strategy and the impacts of following a strategy. EA needs to be integrated with business dynamics so that they grow and evolve together. Good architecture should allow for dynamics in the business to be decoupled from design. A solid architecture framework will allow architecture to have such flexibility of allowing the business dynamics to be realized within the architecture. Initially, the business cannot identify and document the business requirements and thus based on market dynamics the business requirements change or add. So the architecture should be designed initially foreseeing future enhancements.

EA constitutes a framework for IT development and evolution. Any framework has predefined constraints. These constraints have been put in taking into account business environment conditions at the time of framework definition. However, business needs evolve and their dynamism has been increasing exponentially. To stay in synch, EA also needs to evolve at the same pace or stay ahead of the curve. The challenges that EA faces in maintaining itself in synch with dynamic business requirements are the amount of technical complexity in its architecture, and also the varying age of applications within the enterprise.

EA must be dynamic and drive influence on business: The majority of EA practices are not mature enough to fulfill its purpose yet, the tools and methods used are largely static models and culture largely driven by IT. This is changing though and people are beginning to take a business-driven view and using dynamic analysis tools to inform and assess business strategy and policy design. EA needs to expand its scope to cover the holistic social-ecological-technical system view; an Enterprise Architect should actually, drive the influence of the business dynamics by providing insight and options to the business decision-makers.

A dynamic EA enables business transformation with holistic planning and execution. Metaphorically, think of EA as a square of plywood balanced on top of an exercise ball. To move forward, you have to have all four corners 'off the ground' at the same time. To change direction each corner must be capable of changing its 'attitude' without breaking, touching the ground or falling off the ball. Once a corner has 'learned' new behavior and finds that behavior to be collectively advantageous, the change will become latched and permanent, at least until the next bump in the road comes along. 

The characteristics of a dynamic EA is forward-looking, agile, flexible and outside-in, in order to drive the influence on building the high-mature digital organizations


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