Friday, 17 August 2007

Process Driven Enterprise Architecture

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The goal of achieving an "Enterprise Architecture" has proved elusive for many years. In fact for many people it is seen as something which is pie in the sky and just plain unachievable. Largely this is because it has been seen as a technology issue, not a business issue and of course this also means explanations around it have been highly technical in nature and unintelligible to most business managers.

As someone who has spent most of the last 15 years working with people in both the technical and business arenas, I can certainly relate to the fact that that it is one area where people have failed consistently to get the messages across. The challenge is that we have to find ways; in its simplest form Enterprise Architecture is about nothing more than ensuring that all the parts of your business – People, Processes, Plant, Premises, Stakeholders and Technology are all aligned and working in concert. In today's increasingly complex world this is something that we must achieve if we are to remain competitive and agile in order to survive. It is a business imperative.

Over recent years, most of the debate in the Enterprise Architecture arena has revolved around debating the merits or not of the Zachman Framework and the work has been data focused. But, now much has changed and it is business rules and process that are responsible for changing the perceptions.

The Zachman Framework, developed by Jon A. Zachman in the early 70s has come in for a lot of undue criticism: it is said to be too IT centric, without enough rigor, and without meta-model or method. Such comments are largely very unfair. It is true that John himself worked at IBM and was heavily into Data Management at the time he conceived the framework, but it is not true that it is IT centric. It is true that there might not be the rigor that would allow anyone to programmatically apply the framework, but then you can't program the classification scheme in a library either! As to meta-model and method, it is fair to say that more work could have been done sooner in this area, but certainly there is a lot of good work going on now.

However much work goes into researching the area, we need to get back, though, to the purpose behind it – to deliver tangible business benefits that business leaders can easily assimilate. It is here that Process Driven approaches are finding favor. However good our data and technical architecture might be, it does not catch the imagination of a business like process does. Process based approaches go to the very heart of an organization and can deliver immediate and highly visible benefits.

At a recent Enterprise Architecture conference I attended in Phoenix, USA, we heard presenter after presenter share real world experiences of how Enterprise Architecture had been delivering real results. Companies like Volkswagen of America, Bank of America shared how they had been able to build Enterprise Architectures, where the businesses, instead of saying "why, are we spending all this money on this!" were saying "If we spent a little more, how much more could we achieve!". This contrasted greatly with the delegates round the coffee tables bemoaning the fact that they could not get buy in at their companies.

When we look at the successes and contrast them with the "Would be failures" we see a number of things in common. Whereas in the case of the "Would be failures" technical people presented lots of information using jargon like Framework and Architecture focused on IT and technical benefits, and of course asked for budget, but not connected to a business initiative. In the successes, very few people used pictures of frameworks or talked explicitly of Enterprise Architecture; they talked of using slides with no more than 3 bullet points on them! (One delegate even shared that their CEO had said if you present with more than that I will not even listen to your presentation!) The people driving the initiatives were very much business oriented and they focused on small quick wins that were highly beneficial to, and highly visible within their organizations. It comes as no surprise, I am sure, to learn that they also focused on understanding Processes and People first and everything else second.

Around 2004, many observers started lambasting Enterprise Architectures, The Zachman Framework and other related initiatives. They were wrong! Enterprise Architecture can, will and must be made to work. The Zachman Framework as a classification scheme is as good as any other, and why do we need to reinvent for the sake of it anyway? The work going on within the Open Group on their TOGAF method for Enterprise Architecture will slowly see a practical method evolving.

On the down side, many US agencies are now mandating Enterprise Architecture and have their own frameworks, based on Zachman (FEAF, TEAD and DoDAF) – so why downside? Well, I hear that as with any such initiative involving Civil Servants around the world, they don't want to deal with people and process issues (they might have to risk downsizing their own jobs!) and instead will just focus on the technology aspects.

The one good lesson to come out of the US Government programs though, is that people are doing it – why? Because they have had their incentive program changed to alter their habits – no Enterprise Architecture, no budget! Another great example of the key lesson from Six Sigma, if you change people's reward systems to suit your desired outcome, then you can change their habits and behaviors far more easily.

To summarize, Enterprise Architecture will become more important, those who succeed will recognize this and build out from People, Process and Organization issues and will remain focused on delivering solid business benefits. In the main these will be delivered one small piece at a time, with the result that the business itself will ask for more to be done and will be happy to fund such work. Lastly, of course, those same people will communicate their needs and ideas in business terms to business people in a succinct manner.

In a short article such as this it is not possible to provide the depth of coverage on some of the topics mentioned. If you would like to know more about the Zachman Framework, why not visit or for the Open Group TOGAF initiative


Mike Walker said...

You made some great points here. I agree with most of what you talked about here and ironicly have a simular post on my blog about measuring EA.

Sidra said...

Great job! List of colleges in Philippines offering Bs architecture courses