Sunday, December 9, 2012

Measuring Performance of Enterprise Architecture

Enterprise Architecture is viewed as an important function in IT Governance and it plays a vital role in aligning IT with the Business. This function is expected to define the technical direction and to ensure application of principles of Architecture to the design and maintenance of IT systems, which in turn should be in alignment with the business vision, mission and strategies and the role that the IT within the organization is expected to play. While the support for commitment and funding is important, it is also important that the EA function consider the following(not exhaustive) to be successful:

  • Alignment with the business strategy and the culture of the organization, 
  • Actively involve in projects to ensure that the principles of design and evolution are adhered to and ensure the continued focus on the business requirements.
  • Offer technical consultancy for all the business and IT functions both internal and external. 
  • Acting as a gate for all decisions impacting the design & evolution architecture. 

IT Governance views EA as the hub of the IT wheel with linkages with various processes, components and goals of the enterprise and some of such key and enabling links are:

  • Promoting and enabling Business Agility
  • Providing standards, policies and principles for the IT Project, Program and Portfolio management function
  • Guides and enables cost management and consolidation
  • Facilitates cost-effective, scalable integration of various IT systems
  • Supports IT Governance by defining / providing the conceptual and technical priorities and thereby promoting informed decision making

Going by the premise, what is not measured does not get managed, it is important to identify the measurable objectives for the Architecture function itself, so that it is well managed and its contribution to the success of the organization is established. While measurement of Architectural activities is difficult, COBIT suggests a set of measurable outcomes and performance measures, some of which are the following:

Number of technology solutions that are not aligned with the business strategy - One of the objectives of the EA function should be to ensure that the technology solutions chosen or implemented are aligned to the business strategy a measure around this could be very useful to establish that the number of misaligned solutions are on the decline. There could be other measures derived around this and could be represented as a relative measure to the total solutions.

Percent of non-compliant technology projects and platforms planned - With the fast changing business environment, there will be times when the business will need to solutions technology projects that are not compliant with the standards and principles laid out by EA. EA has the responsibility to carefully review such needs and grant waivers. Such waivers should be for a shorter term and should be backed with a plan to normalize it. At times, this could call revision in the standards, policies or principles. A measure around this could be very useful that the EA is effective in dealing with non-compliant technology projects and platforms.

Decreased number of technology platforms to maintain - Standardization is one of the objectives of EA, which could contribute to cost reductions and reduce the technical complexity. Statistics and surveys show that enterprises without an active IT Governance / EA function have more multiple applications requiring different platforms for the same business requirement being used by different departments. With an effective EA function, these should be very less in number and should decline over a period. A measure around this is a very good indicator of EA being effective in this area.

Reduced application deployment effort and time-to-market - Supporting Business agility is yet another key objective of the EA function. Today’s businesses are operating in a highly dynamic industry environment and in order to stay competitive and to sustain its market position, need support from IT to have the new or changed capabilities with a reduced time-to-market. A delayed delivery from IT could mean an opportunity lost. A measure around this indicator would really be helpful in establishing how IT is supporting the business changes.

Increased interoperability between systems and applications - It is quite common that most enterprises have multiple applications for specific needs, but there is a need to have these applications share data and information amongst each other. With cloud computing gaining wider acceptance, most enterprises are looking at discrete cloud based solutions. With the benefits outweighing the concerns and constraints, and that the industry is working towards addressing these concerns, there will be increased focus on move to cloud. This will mean hosted applications from various providers would need to be interoperable and working with other in house applications. EA should ensure that the technology and solutions acquired or designed should support this important attribute i.e. interoperability. A measure around this parameter would be an important indicator of EA function’s effectiveness.

Percent of IT budget assigned to technology infrastructure and research - Yet another expectation from the EA function is that it should help businesses in leveraging emerging technology to its advantage. This will require the Architects to be continuously looking for newer technologies and its application areas, and recommend such technology or solutions for implementation so that the business will get the most out of IT to accomplish its mission. It is also important the extent of this activity should be in line with the identified and stated role of IT in the organization. While the percentage of IT budget used for research is an useful measure, there could be other useful measures derived from this, for instance, number of research solutions getting implemented as a percentage to total number of solutions implemented in a given period. Business satisfaction on timely identification and analysis of technology opportunities is another related measure which is indicative of the outcome of this research.

Number of months since the last technology infrastructure review - With the fast changing IT space, it is important to ensure that the technology infrastructure is of continued relevance to meeting the business objectives and if needed changes should be considered. A measure indicating that the EA function is performing review of the technology infrastructure periodically is a good indicator of its effectiveness. Measures derived around this review could be based on the outcome of the review will also be very useful.

There is no one size fits all in IT and as such the measures indicated above need to be tailored to suit the organization and the role of IT within the organization.

References:

COBIT - an IT Governance framework from ISACA.

Developing a successful governance strategy - A best practice guide for decision makers in IT from The National Computing Center, UK