Tuesday, September 1, 2020

Five Levels of Enterprise Architecture Maturity

Enterprise architecture has to accommodate the fact that all organizations operate simultaneously as open and closed systems.

Organizations are different, they have different cultures, different structures, they compete in different markets and they have a different scale. It’s important to leverage enterprise architecture as an effective tool to facilitate communication and improve organizational maturity. 

Ideally, an enterprise's architecture must be a living and breathing thing to be effective. Enterprise Architecture is on its own evolutionary journey and its development is a continuous improvement journey. Vertically, there are five levels of architectural maturity of the organization itself. EA assessment needs to have a clear purpose first, if it's at logical or implementation level maturity, or is it for evaluating organizational maturity.

Level 1 Ad Hoc: Ad hoc means on-off, narrow and tactical, reactionary, or unplanned, etc. At this level, it’s a fairly immature organization architecturally, with limited understanding of the value and role of architecture. Often, each enterprise architectural new initiative reinvents the wheel, communications are not clarified and lessons are unlearned, processes change on a whim. The low mature enterprise architecture design perhaps create silos as well as silos introduce lots of delays, ad hoc, waste, queues, and bottlenecks, and causes bureaucratic management redundancy. 

Level 2 Reactive:
At this level, organizations have some understanding of enterprise architecture but do not apply architecture in a systematic way. The symptoms of poor design include disjointed strategies, outdated data or technical knowledge, reactive to changing environments, lack of reusability or resilience in design, low standardization or low integration causes complications and increases the overall operation cost, etc. Organizations that get stuck at the lower level of maturity, sometimes gain tactical expediency in the short term, but eventually, complication, misalignment or incoherence hurt business performance, decelerate speed, and consume budget with exorbitant maintenance costs in the long run.

Level 3 Proactive: At this level, organizations have repeatable processes that place architects into key roles of responsibility in proactive manner: Pre-planning, planning, prioritizing, adjustment, alignment, and oversight; do all the time; partnering with the business to understand entry, exist, risk permanence, and value generation strategy, use of new technology, business process, partner, business model, joint product development, supplier integration, and use of real-time, accurate, or predictive information, etc. It's important to establish a cross-functional team to involve the multifaceted architecture design, space and time are made to scope, plan, and execute in a proactive mode.

Facing today’s business velocity and frequent digital disruptions, the dynamic planning process is the continual attention to current changes in the organization and its external environment, and how this affects the future of the organization. The main emphasis is on doing "better pre-work," leveraging EA to learn the business context, defining the situation, trying to proactively remove cultural, organizational, or systemic obstacles, gaining an in-depth understanding of the organization. And then, the application of EA or other systematic methods applied in a structured, systematic process allows a more complete and holistic approach to be taken for framing and solving complex problems proactively. The challenge of enterprise architecture is to build an organization that in times of change and in times of relative status quo remains. The planning process is never "done,” it is a continuous cycle with the proper adjustment on the way.

Level 4 Improved:
At this level, organizations are continuously improving their architectural practices and placing architects into key business decisions. Architecture is a practical tool, to define a very flexible business blueprint, cover all areas of the business, with the abstract components (components = different artifacts) including such as capabilities, functions, roles, events, rules, data, etc; not just for knowledge collection, but more about capturing business insight and foresight, facilitate the planning and communicating of business change initiatives, and translate the abstract concept back into the real world example.

The high mature digital organization can apply EA approach to bring a greater awareness of intricacies, and systematic understanding of people dynamics, resource alignment, and technological impact. Enterprise Architecture aids in the transformation from strategy to plan and acts as an assurance of the quality of the strategy and contributes to improved quality of the strategic planning. Only high-mature EA, which is truly the super glue between strategy and execution, can become an enabler in transforming management style to run the digital business holistically.

Level 5 Measured: Effective performance measurement strengthens the link between EA design implementation and improves transparency. EA performance can be assessed objectively via its cost reduction and complexity management efforts. To measure EA effort in business efficiency means a way to measure how well you are doing in terms of available resources and budget. When selecting the right set of metrics to evaluate EA for cost optimization, ask whether the metrics can reveal anything meaningful for the identified purpose, and ensure the management buy-in for the metrics collection processes. At some point in the enterprise evolution, business effectiveness and efficiency are correlated specifically when the organization reaches its capacity.

Enterprise architecture has to accommodate the fact that all organizations operate simultaneously as open and closed systems. This is a reality hence any architecture has to be able to accommodate this. KPIs and the associated EA metrics drive priorities and behaviors. If the measures have not been clearly identified, you cannot get the true alignment of your team and all working toward the same goals and outcomes. It’s critical to apply EA or other system tools or framework to understand and manage complexity, recognize patterns, perceive invisible success factors, be able to reframe circumstances, alter or change the frame of reference to create previously unconsidered business solutions and measure performance improvement effortlessly.

A digital business ecosystem is just like the natural ecosystem which keeps the dynamic balance of order and chaos, patterns and diversity. Enterprise Architects need to work closely with Business managers to keep improving enterprise architecture, understand the paradigm shift and have to find ways to resolve many digital management paradoxes, to strike the right balance between digital speed and industrial speed and drive digital transformation proactively.


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