Successful EA - the people aspect | Real IRM

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Successful EA - the people aspect

Enterprise architecture (EA) is more relevant today than ever before. We’re seeing new technologies, new market forces, more competition, and rapidly changing business models coming to the fore.

The role of the Chief Architect in ensuring EA programmes deliver valueTogether, these present a burning requirement for many organisations to ‘digitise the enterprise’. EA helps to do this by providing the organisation’s leadership with a complete view of its operating models. The benefits include: competitive advantage, business transformation, and to demonstrate commitment to corporate governance, to external stakeholders.
However, so many EA programmes fail to achieve meaningful results. More often than not, they either end up on the scrapheap of failed IT programmes and wasted investments, or limp along with limited and isolated impact within the broader organisation.
So, why do EA programmes so often fail?

Chief Architect

The biggest reason for failed EA programmes is the lack of leadership skills within the EA team. The Chief Architect needs to lead by example, inspire others, and understand the business’ needs.

   "The Chief Architect needs to lead by example, inspire others, and understand
business’ needs."

She must also have business acumen, technical skills, the ability to listen, communicate, present to groups, and to ‘sell’ the vision of the EA function to key stakeholders. By convincing people of the benefits, the Chief Architect can generate enthusiasm for the EA practice.
Then, the Chief Architect must clearly demonstrate the results of the EA practice to business stakeholders and executives in the organisation. The EA vision must be constantly reinforced throughout the programme as the practice develops in maturity.

The Core EA team

The Chief Architect must be supported by a strong EA team - led  by a guiding coalition and steering committee. Having a core EA team which is ill-equipped to deliver is likely to cause the EA practice to stall, or even fail entirely.
The starting point is to understand the skills requirements, and match this with the right people in the right roles. The team environment needs to foster collaboration and knowledge-sharing – giving the Chief Architect better visibility of everything happening within the team.

   "The goal is to ensure the right portfolio of skills is spread across the entire EA

The goal is to ensure the right portfolio of skills is spread across the entire EA discipline – people with the right qualifications, tool proficiencies, competencies and personalities are working together in the optimal structure.

Organisational Positioning of the EA function

With failed EA projects, the origins of many problems can often be traced back to the placement of the EA function within the organisation’s design.
For example, if EA is housed within the area of the Chief Technology Officer then we can expect the focus to be all about technical architectures and solutions support. If it’s positioned under the Chief Information Officer, the focus is often more on supporting solution architectures. Whichever is the case, we find that organisational structure shapes the behaviour and the strategies of the teams.

   "The organisational design must suit the company’s EA requirements"

The organisational design must suit the company’s EA requirements - and it is important that the EA function spans all of the horizontal EA domains (business architecture, information architecture, data architecture, application architecture and technology architecture) and vertical domains (integration, security and solution architecture).
Organisations are complex organic structures, in a never-ceasing state of flux, brought on by ever changing market pressures. Those organisations that take the wrong approach to establishing an EA practice - or fail to grasp the distinction between ‘simplistic’ and ‘simple’ - often find the practice imploding within a few short years.
So, in summary, it is critical to have the right people, under the right leader (the Chief Architect), working in the right structure within the organisation. Without all three of these things in place, the EA practice is at great risk of failure.
In our next article  in this series, we will look at some of the more strategic themes - ensuring that the right vision and direction is in place, avoiding a problem we refer to as ‘Ivory Towers’, and maintaining the support of the strategic, executive stakeholders.