If you want more respect from your business community, spend more time and energy on enterprise architecture (EA) planning. That’s the bottom line of a recent survey from industry association CompTIA.
Seth Robinson, the organization’s senior director of technology planning, says that improved EA planning is required these days because of the increasing number of computing models, from cloud to the Internet of Things and continuous app delivery.
“You really need to have collaborative discussions,” he says, because the days of strict IT control or rogue departments rolling-their-own-computing should be over. “Everyone has to be building something together” to ensure that the business gets what it needs for growth, Robinson explains, and IT can take care of essentials -- especially the integration between legacy gear and anything new.
The EA planning function is required for digital transformation initiatives. The goal of both EA planning and digital transformation “is to start with corporate goals and move backwards to the optimal technology solution,” the report says. “This is not just an IT activity, but it gives IT a new role to play within the organization.”
Important as it is, be careful and don’t get lost in the EA framework quagmire, advises Jason Bloomberg, founder of digital-transformation consultancy Intellyx. “Dealing with change has to be the focus of the architecture, he says. “It’s not a temporary phenomenon. You don’t switch this or that and be done -- you’re never really done” in this new world. “You have to understand change, and make it a regular course of affairs.”
Providing the appropriate emphasis on EA planning will take some doing. Currently only around 23% of the 500 businesses surveyed take part in EA planning beyond the typical 12-month budget cycle, CompTIA found. Others may have a longer time horizon, but any planning is done around specific projects. Around 75% do some level of planning, but the smaller the company, the less time is spent.
Among the other survey findings:
- Most companies eschew the time-consuming, complex old EA approaches, tied as they were to the waterfall app-development model. Today’s EA planning draws on the Zachman Framework, models by the Open Group and specific advice from Gartner and other IT consultancies, among other models.
- EA planning should be a two-way street. As IT staffers must understand the business needs, business partners need to have a basic knowledge of the company’s major IT systems and how they interoperate. So, IT groups would do well to spend some time educating their user groups.
- Some of the more advanced companies are building EA planning approaches around end-user or data-centric models. In the first, the architecture is built around the user experience (and not just based on tools to make users more productive). In the second, EA planning is focused on the data flowing around the company.
All that said, the IT group may have to sell the idea of EA planning for top execs’ buy-in. Among the benefits to focus on, the study says, are the notion of collaboration between IT and business units, the ability to prioritize investments, establishing a process for tech buying and evaluation, and evaluating legacy or existing technology against long-term goals.
One reason behind the study was to give IT leaders talking points “to really show upper management what it means to head in a new direction with technology,” Robinson says. “Once technology is connected to business strategy, the viewpoint of technology will begin to change.”