Strategy for EA Success | Real IRM

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Avoiding the perils on the way to successful Enterprise Architecture

Strategy for EA Success

Our first article in this series introduced some of the most common reasons for the failure of EA practices. We explored issues relating to the Chief Architect, the core EA team, and the positioning of the EA function within the organisation. 

Now, we turn our attention to another consideration - that of strategy.

EA vision, strategy and direction

If the guiding coalition fails to establish a clear vision and strategy, the EA function can go wrong very quickly. Projects become misaligned and poorly managed, and the practice withers into something that is neither sustainable nor value-adding.

This strategy needs to emanate from the correct starting point: where thorough stakeholder analyses and capability assessments produce a set of guiding principles that are business-appropriate. This sets the foundation for successful EA.

The chances of EA failure rises dramatically if the organisation doesn’t complete these fundamental steps (including TOGAF®’s preliminary phase), or if it sees EA as an isolated technology project and not a new way-of-working, that must be woven into the DNA of the organisation.

The business executive must empower the EA function with a defined and widely communicated mandate. Failure to do so often results in ‘turf wars’ between the EA practice and related areas of the organisation, such as the Programme Management Office or Service Management.

Ivory towers

Ivory Towers

The strategy must be supported by tangible, practical outputs.

There is a risk that architects become overly-enamoured with the conceptual aspects of their work, building complex frameworks in isolation from the business stakeholders ‘on the ground’.

This leads to distorted perspective, where the architect’s views are not necessarily shared by their key stakeholders. Architects that look to force their models on the business without fully appreciating their requirements are at the greatest risk of alienation and ultimate failure. We refer to this as the ‘Ivory Tower syndrome’. 

"Architects that look to force their models on the business without fully
appreciating their requirements are at the greatest risk of
alienation and ultimate failure"

An overly-academic approach to EA also leads to inertia in decision-making, where the fear of failure leads to an inability to act. Successful architects follow the principle of “publish or perish” - which describes how critical it is to deliver tangible outputs timeously.

Executive sponsorship

By becoming too conceptual, the team risks losing the support of the C-Suite executives. In order to retain executive sponsorship, the EA practice needs to address the burning issues that dominate boardroom discussions.

" retain executive sponsorship, the EA practice needs to address
the burning issues that dominate boardroom discussions"

Executive SponsorshipTo build on early momentum, EA education and communication should filter down from above as one of the organisation’s highest priorities. This helps to foster business stakeholder engagement and ensure that EA content is used in the right ways “on the ground”.

Executives are also able to remove many of the obstacles that could otherwise bring on the demise of EA in the organisation. Executive sponsors may be called on to influence budgets and vendor selection, or make the necessary structural changes to the teams, or ensure that corporate governance remains firmly on the agenda.

Thoroughly addressing these strategic considerations puts the EA practice on much firmer ground. However, it is not necessarily enough to sustain a vibrant practice. In our next article, we’ll explore some of the other common causes of EA failure (and show you how to avoid them). We’ll touch on the areas of teamwork and collaboration, change management, and communication.