How to Develop a High-Performance Enterprise Architecture

Even if your Enterprise Architecture (EA) program is effective at managing technology or helping application development, you need to work on repositioning EA to be more business-focused. Here are some recommendations to help you develop a strategy to achieve that goal.

By Alex Cullen
Thu, September 06, 2012

CIO — "If you don't know where you are going, any road will take you there," said the Cheshire cat to Alice. While Lewis Carroll certainly didn't have enterprise architecture (EA) professionals in mind when he penned these words in 1865, it bears to mind the difficulties faced by many of today's EA teams as they strive to be more business-focused and strategically engaged. Many EA programs get started -- and immediately become busy -- but with a vague charter, unclear expectations, and a goal simply of "being useful." Sometimes they are useful -- they become go-to people for technical issues and firefighting. Or, they find a hot topic that no one else is pursuing. However, "useful' does not build a solid foundation for advancing the EA practice.

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CIOs might appreciate the firefighting -- but they need high-performance EA practices that are business-focused, strategic, and pragmatic. Getting there requires a mission and vision relevant to the needs of the larger organization. But having this still gets you only part of the way there. You also need to develop a strategy to achieve this vision simply because roles, skills, processes, and relationships have to add up.

Whether your EA program is effective at managing technology or helping application development -- or not -- you should plan on a transformation. Repositioning EA as business-focused, strategic, and pragmatic doesn't happen by accident -- you are only as good as your plan. All aspects of your program (skills, relationships, processes, and deliverables) may need to change. To move your firm's practice of EA forward, Forrester's EA Practice Playbook recommends that you:

Set Your Mssion and Objectives Using a Combination of Bottom-Up and Top-Down Planning

By using a combination of bottom-up needs identification followed by top-down harmonization, you can define an appropriate strategic mission that is relevant to stakeholders, a mission that might otherwise have appeared abstract and disconnected from business needs. A bottom-up approach looks at the business stakeholders' specific business goals and objectives and the current-state gaps to identify the specific objectives and initiatives EA can undertake. However, a list of business-relevant objectives isn't enough to reposition EA. You also need a top-down approach to identify the common values your organization needs and the cohesive mission that knits them together. For example, there could be multiple business goals and gaps within a common theme of information availability and quality, suggesting an overall EA objective for information as a strategic asset crossing business processes.

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