Saturday, March 8, 2014

The Principles of Agile Enterprise Architecture Management

Change is happening everywhere and that too at an accelerated rate not only in IT but also in many other functional areas, though the same is very high in the area of IT. Business users are encouraged to innovate in every possible area and that brings in more and more transformation projects, an important category of projects in the enterprise program and portfolio management. Many a times these transformation projects are time critical, which if not implemented on time will use the market advantage. On the same lines, technology adoption is becoming a key aspect for the success of the businesses and the predicting, tracking and embracing the upcoming disruptive technologies has become an important business and strategic risk as it can have wider impact across business strategies, capabilities and processes.

Enterprise Architecture function has equal responsibility in ensuring these changes are embraced with least impact. While running the business as it is an important aspect, enabling transformation of business capabilities and information management capabilities is another key goal for the Enterprise Architects. One of the key elements that Enterprise Architects should consider and address is complexity around business and IT Architecture management so that transformation projects get implemented at desired time schedules and thus reap the intended business benefits. While there are other key objectives like delivering stakeholder value, managing complexity is an objective that comes close to being Agile.

The Agile Enterprise Architecture is all about letting changes happen and thus keep the Architectural Principles continuously evolving. This will also call for having an appropriate lifecycle that facilitates the evolution, development and adaption of the current and the target reference architecture continuously. This will keep the maturity levels of various IT management functions also changing over time. In this blog, let us focus on the key principles that enables an Agile Enterprise Architecture Management:

Value Individuals and Interactions over Tools and Processes

It is a well established and understood fact that it's the people who build success in the enterprise, and the tools and processes are just enablers. With people being the greatest asset, the organizational culture plays an important role in motivating the employees to collaborate, innovate and deliver the results more effectively and efficiently. Build the EA team in such a way that it has representation or interface with the Top Management, Business & IT Owners, Business & IT Operations teams and the Project Teams driving the change within. Choose and deploy the right set of tools, technology and processes that facilitates the collaboration with different business and IT functions.

The EAM team shall aim for sustainable evolution, with a pace as is driven by business and IT users; Help the project teams to avoid panics, and discourage culture clashes; Understand that everyone has their own area of expertise and thus can add value to the project or program.

Focus on demands of top Stakeholders and speak their languages

Typically the top stakeholders need continuous input from the EA team on various business and IT functions, to decide on further strategic alignments or improvements, which in turn would lead to new transformation projects or change of course in case of existing projects. The inputs could be in the form of metrics, visualizations and reports. It is very important that these inputs should be relevant and make sense to the target recipients. The following key considerations are worth considering to ensure that the stakeholders realize the maximum value out of such inputs from EA teams:

  • A single number or picture is more helpful than 1000 reports
  • Avoid waste - Share information that is relevant and nothing more and nothing less.
  • Leverage the existing process to generate and deliver these inputs as against a whole set of EA specific processes.

Promote rapid feedback, by working jointly on models and architecture blue prints with other people and functions. Remember that the best way of conveying information is by a face-to-face conversation, supported by other materials. Shared development of a model, at a whiteboard, will generate excellent feedback and buy-in. Work as closely as possible with all the stakeholders, including your customers and other partners.

Reflect behavior and adapt to changes

The effect of a change in the end reflects on the behavior of individuals, tools, and functions. The EAM function shall atempt to understand the likely directions and behavior of such changes using techniques such as scenario analysis and change cases. This will help the EAM function to determine how best to embrace the change in terms of timing, approach and methodology. This is where a pattern based approach in developing the EAM function would facilitate change adoption with much ease and least impact.

EAM should manage and plan for the changes and shall never resist a change. It may not always be easy in embracing changes, but a well thought out EAM evolution lifecycle would certainly make it simpler. It is always possible that one big change can be broken into various blocks and can be taken one at a time, depending on the time, efforts and business priorities.

Here are some of the useful references for further reading on the Agility and the Enterprise Architecture Management.

1. Towards an Agile Design of the Enterprise Architecture Management Function

2. Principles for the Agile Architect

3. The Principles of Agile Architecture

4. Actionable Enterprise Architecture (EA) for the Agile Enterprise: Getting Back to Basics

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