Financial services company, BNP Paribas, is rolling out company-wide framework for enterprise architecture, in a move that will ensure that IT projects match the needs of the business more closely.
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The project is expected to improve the business impact of major IT projects, by improving collaboration between the enterprise architects responsible for designing the bank's IT systems and business professionals.
"It has helped in deciding whether to go ahead with a project or not. For big projects, the fact that a mature architecture has been deployed is a guarantee that the project will deliver. Its very important," says Jean-Christophe Mache, head of functional architecture at BNP Paribas.
The bank, which employs 200,000 people worldwide, including 20,000 in IT, began developing the framework three years ago, after identifying the need to align its IT implementations more closely with the business.
The company based its enterprise architecture framework on the open standard, TOGAF, developed by the Open Group, a membership group for IT end users and suppliers.
BNP Paribas customised TOGAF with best practice already used in the bank, to create a dedicated enterprise architecture strategy for BNP Paribas.
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The company assembled a team of nearly 20 enterprise architects across the business to develop the framework, known as the Eagle (Entreprise Architecture Group Language), as a practical document. "It was not work done by intellectual people in an ivory tower," said Mache.
Mache said it was important for the team to produce a quick win to demonstrate the value of the framework to the business.
The group produced the first version of the framework in under a year, and the first implementation within six months of that, using a project in the group's personal finance and consumer credit division to prove the concept.
The framework provides a bridge between the business and IT said Mache, helping the business to understand IT strategy and IT to understand business strategy.
"It is helping all the stakeholders gain a better understanding of each other's point of view. It is a better guarantee of alignment between the business implementation and the IT implementation."
In particular, the framework helps business and IT professionals to make their assumptions and reasoning for IT projects explicit, so there are likely to be fewer problems when a project is rolled out.
"If you have a business requirement that is important in a certain way, you have to make the link between the requirement and the implementation," said Mache.
BPN Paribas is gradually rolling out Eagle across the organisation, with some two thirds of the organisation using the framework.
"It is a carrot and stick approach. The carrot is that it is not very difficult to implement. The stick is IT governance," he said.
Mache advises businesses that want to develop their own enterprise architecture frameworks to focus on quick wins to convince the business of its merits.
"Enterprise architecture will change IT in the long term, but in the short term you have to keep people around the table. I would advise people to have quick wins but think about the long term," he said.
It is also essential for enterprise architects to understand the politics of an organisation, if they want to persuade the rest of the business of the value of an enterprise architecture framework.
"It is an influence process to build a framework. It is important to have good leverage to build that support. In order to have that support you need to dive into politics," he said.
BNP Paribas is now on its third version of the Eagle framework. It plans to develop it in the future to provide stronger integration between enterprise architecture and security.
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