Enterprise architects: Please leave your framework at the door

Enterprise architects should use architecture frameworks for inspiration, rather than trying to apply the entire structure to their organisation

Over the past few years, a growing number of organisations have rejected standard framework-driven approaches to enterprise architecture (EA), as they are simply too heavy for practical use, writes Brian Burke (pictured)

Using a framework-driven approach, you do all the work before you deliver any value. As a result, too many enterprise architects have become focused on "doing EA" rather than delivering business value. 

There are a lot of valuable ideas in standard EA frameworks, but they need to be customised to be practical. Enterprise architects should use frameworks for inspiration on how to achieve specific outcomes, instead of trying to apply the entire structure to their organisation.

What is needed is a "skinny" EA. Leading EA practitioners have refocused on a narrow set of business outcomes to slim down the work effort and maximize the impact of EA. 

For example, at Lenovo, enterprise architecture must be results driven. They have no need for "architecture astronauts", according to Arthur Hu, Lenovo's executive director of corporate business transformation and IT strategy. 

"We have a practical approach to enterprise architecture, focusing it on the specific problems we want to solve," said Hu.

The challenge enterprise architects face is how to narrow the focus of EA to a manageable set of target business outcomes. How can they define a skinny EA? The answer is to identify the most important business outcomes to be addressed, then decompose the problem and recompose a custom EA solution. 

The method that Gartner advises for achieving this is called stage planning for EA, using a "Target — Frame — Plan" approach. It's a simple, straightforward method that enables enterprise architects to design or customise an EA framework and process with a strong focus on the most important business disruptions and target business outcomes facing their organisations.

Many of the business disruptions that organisations face are common across companies and industries. 

For example, understanding the impact of cloud computing, cost optimisation and mobile or social media are common challenges for many organisations today. The strategies that they formulate to deal with these business disruptions may be unique, but the tools to analyse the disruptive impact are not. 

It is important to have the right tools for the job. While specialised analytical tools are useful for specific problems, enterprise architects also need to be skilled in the use of a broad set of general-purpose tools. 

Understanding business capability models, investment frameworks and sourcing models are just some examples of the tools that enterprise architects need in their kits.

Business outcome-driven EA is a step change in the evolution of EA. Enterprise architects need to refocus their efforts on business value and learn the tools and skills to become versatile problem solvers that organisations are demanding.

Brian Burke is chairing the Gartner Enterprise Architecture Summit 2013, May 14-15 in London, UK



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