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Enterprise Architecture: Looking Past Technology to See the Forest and the Trees

Without clearly knowing where you are, you will never be able to plan how to go anywhere else. Enterprise Architecture (EA) and the power of third parties can help customize your approach to digital transformation.

Every organization is the same, yet at the same time entirely different. All seek success and a valuable return on their technology investments. But all follow different paths to get there.  

At World Wide Technology, we are technology people, so we know Enterprise Architecture (EA) is a conceptual blueprint that defines the structure and operation of an organization. The intent of it is to determine how an organization can most effectively achieve its current and future objectives

But more importantly, it provides the answer to the questions: Will I or my team be ready for the next technology or strategy request that is asked of me? Will I have to say no to the business when I know my value lies in the ability to say yes?

A simple question: Are you ready?

In order to confidently answer these important questions, you have to realistically assess your strategies and technology utilization toward better understanding your business. Not just where you are at the time — strategically and in relation to technology — but where you could possibly go with both into the future. WWT’s practical EA approach can help you get there.

If you’re like most business leaders, and you know you are, you’ve tried before to assess yourself —your organization — in relation to a strategic technology direction, as well as an overall use of technology. You may have failed because of the forest that is always blocking your view of the trees. 

For you to be successful, you need to see both. 

EA is uniquely suited to help you clear the brush, put your technology and strategy portfolios in context and, ultimately, allow you a clear vision of your business.

Seeing the forest and the trees

If you think about prior attempts to assess your organization, when you struggled to view your organizations technology and strategy landscape, there were just too many initiatives, far too many projects and way too many ongoing systemic changes simultaneously occurring. This is the forest, and it prevented you (and your team) from clearly seeing yourselves, the trees. 

This limits you in two ways:

  • Without clearly knowing where you are, you will never be able to plan how to go anywhere else.
  • Without understanding your organization, you will just keep repeating the same strategies that clearly know aren’t working.

You need to see both the forest and the trees to truly succeed. 

Seeking help is the axe, credibility is the chainsaw

Understand you are not alone. 

All businesses and organizations that rely on technology to varying degrees are in the exact same position. It takes a real leader to find ways to help yourself. More importantly, it takes a strong and confident leader to ask for directions and use a roadmap (like those created using EA principles) to be able to find a successful path forward through the forest.

While EA initiatives may contain blueprints that define the structure and operation of an organization, they are not all cookie cutter and standard across businesses. 

The graphic below is an example of a non-typical artifact from an EA engagement that was used to describe a combination of strategies to help the organization adopt DevOps while continuing to enhance current capabilities and, ultimately, allow them to retire functions in the business. 

non-typical artifact from an EA engagement
Non-typical artifact from an EA engagement.

Below are some things to think about as you start deconstructing that forest — leveraging EA as a chainsaw is definitely suggested — on your path to understanding the trees.

  1. Don’t do it yourself: Let’s be honest and admit that it is hard to self-judge, and that we are biased and often want to look past the mess we’ve made for ourselves over the years. You should get a peer, a mentor or a trusted third party to give you an outside perspective for strategic technology direction, as well as your overall use of technology.  Look to EA as a means to create a roadmap — a way forward that others have used successfully.
  2. Do not be a snowflake: Others have successfully traversed this trail already, so use their experiences to your advantage. You don’t have to bang into every tree to find the right path. Leverage EA to help understand the routes your competitors are taking that allows them to get it right. Have the humility and respect to see the good in those paths.
  3. Recognize when you need to customize: Some forests are cedar while others are oak. Still, others are maple. While those differences matter, they are all part of the forest and, by extension, the architecture of the enterprise. Understand your differences and customize best practices to your unique value proposition.
  4. Stop and enjoy: Digital transformation is here to stay — likely led by EA initiatives. As a business leader, know that change is exciting and offers opportunity. Great leaders enjoy the walk through the forest and the unique value of each tree.

When the Road Changes, the Roadmap Changes

Remember: Every organization is both the same and entirely different. All seek success and a valuable return on their technology investments but all may follow different paths to get there.  

Using valuable techniques like EA and credible, trusted third parties can help customize the route you take you through your forest; on your way to knowing yourself much better.