In the current economic climate, an effective enterprise architecture (EA) programme is a necessity, not a luxury, so Gartner has identified five questions that will help CIOs ensure that their EA initiative is on track to deliver business value.
Gartner defines EA as the process of translating business vision and strategy into effective enterprise change. A business-driven EA plan will help identify cost optimisation opportunities and ensure a rational approach to investment by balancing the needs of today with tomorrow¹s growth opportunities.
"CIOs seem to intuitively realise the value that EA can deliver, but we find that many organisations continue to struggle with it," says Anne Lapkin, research vice-president at Gartner. "Often EA is not well understood elsewhere in the organisation, and the EA teams are not doing a good enough job of demonstrating or articulating its value. Further complicating matters is the fact that the increased importance of cost optimisation efforts means that EA teams often need to recast their initiatives in light of changing enterprise priorities."
Lapkin says that ensuring that EA efforts support the changing priorities of the business and focus on short- as well as long-term value is critical. To this end, Gartner has devised five key questions that the CIO can ask to ensure that the EA programme is on track.
* Is the value proposition of the EA initiative specific to the business and articulated in business terms? Business leaders are interested in achieving the business goals that are defined for the company, and it is the architect¹s ability to express how the architecture will contribute to these efforts that will make the difference between support for the architecture and tolerance (or indeed, indifference). A corollary to this question is, "Is it written down?" Too often, chief architects rely on the idea that the
value proposition is well understood to the business, forgetting that anything that is not made explicit is open to interpretation by different stakeholders.
* Has the value proposition been refocused as business priorities have changed? Clearly, the current climate of economic uncertainty has changed business priorities. It is important not to forget that EA is an iterative process. The EA team should re-evaluate its priorities periodically as part of that process. Not every organisation is drastically cutting expenses because it¹s the only way to survive. Some are using the current environment to expand into new markets. EA teams should take the opportunity to refine their value propositions to reflect the current business priorities and to publicly reaffirm their commitment to achieving business goals to demonstrate that it is in tune with this business overall.
* Do the architects emphasise the value of the process rather than the value of the deliverables? In many organisations, there is an inappropriate focus by the architecture team on the production of "artefacts" rather than the facilitative process of EA. Instead, the focus needs to be on enabling business change – EA is the process that articulates strategic drivers for change, defines vision of the future state to support those strategic drivers, and provides the road map for achieving the future state and creative constraints that should be followed when executing on the road map. This should be a collaborative process, facilitated by the architects, with the real benefit to the organisation coming from going through the process and not in any particular work that is produced.
* Are performance metrics being used, and are they business-focused? In an attempt to measure the value of EA, organisations often mistakenly resort to metrics that are focused on the EA team and outputs or technical results. Often a company will measure conformance to the architecture, such as the number of waivers granted or the percentage of projects that undergo architectural review. However, Gartner maintains that measures of architectural effectiveness are no substitute for measuring business value. If the EA initiative is not delivering the business results that the enterprise needs, something will have to change. Appropriate measures might instead include improved time to market for new products or reduced costs as a percentage of revenue.
* Is effective governance in place to ensure that the architecture vision is being realised? Governance and architecture go hand in hand. EA identifies high-priority business changes, and governance ensures these changes are funded and occur. If architecture guidance is not implemented, then EA deliverables count for little more than books gathering dust on the shelf. To achieve true value, the processes for using the architecture to make investment and implementation decisions must be developed at the same time that the process for creating and maintaining the architecture is defined.
"Business-driven EA represents a valuable tool for CIOs as they contend with shifting priorities, tightened budgets and increased demands for business alignment," says Lapkin. "CIOs can ensure that their EA efforts are on track to provide business value and alignment when these questions are answered."