Kick-Starting an Enterprise Architecture Function
Learn about two different approaches for transforming an enterprise architecture function that either is non-existent today or stuck at a low maturity level and not providing the value it should.
It is easy to become overwhelmed with the amount of enterprise architecture (EA) material available today from a simple internet search. With countless different approaches in the market, we find many customers that know they would benefit from a more mature and modern enterprise architecture practice, but they are stuck wondering where they should start.
Where to start
WWT has developed a practical approach to EA based on industry best practices, numerous customer engagements and years of technology experience to help customers with this exact problem. Using this approach, we’ve found success kicking-off EA transformation efforts in two different ways:
- The EA assessment: A thorough evaluation of your current EA maturity and recommendations for a path forward
- The EA accelerator: A concerted effort to get a more strategic EA function established through building the EA foundations while driving the curation of strategies, roadmaps, reference architectures and other supporting artifacts in two high-impact domains
This article will provide more insight behind these two different approaches for kick-starting an EA function and shed light on the key insights and characteristics behind why companies choose one style vs. the other.
Two approaches: EA assessment vs. EA accelerator
The two approaches to kick-starting an EA transformation can be viewed on a spectrum—with the right blend of activities being selected based on a customer’s needs, timeline and investment. EA assessments put a heavier focus on the evaluation of current state and painting a vision for the future of the EA practice within an organization.
The output from these assessments can be used as the building blocks from which an EA practice is formed and can drive the overall vision and impact an EA practice will have within an organization. The EA assessments provide customers with a rigorous analysis of their EA current state, resulting in a maturity ranking which is supported by a clear set of recommendations to grow maturity across each of their foundational areas.
Once acted upon, these recommendations help companies establish an industry best practice EA function that works for their individual organizations.
EA accelerators put a lighter focus on the assessment of the current state to allow for building foundational and domain-specific content in an iterative fashion (we recommend doing both a technology and business domain together). This offering strives to create immediate value from EA while simultaneously maturing the EA practice.
Because this includes not only designing the EA function, but also executing EA work, there is a heavy focus placed on developing the “softer-side” of EA within an organization to gain buy-in from key stakeholders. While these accelerators also include recommendations on how to grow the maturity of the foundational EA components, they typically do not include a formal current state assessment.
Companies undergoing EA accelerators see improved standardization and actionable documentation coming out of their EA function, while also understanding the importance of having EAs with the consultative skills to build the brand of EA within their organization. These companies can use the momentum generated during the accelerator to strategically plan their future EA initiatives and ensure timely, actionable work out of their matured practice.
So which option is best for you? Through our experience we have seen these types of engagements are best suited for different types of customers.
Why some companies prefer an EA assessment
Companies that prefer an EA assessment typically already have some form of an EA practice established within their organization, but they have key gaps in the capabilities and value provided by that practice. These companies often want to better understand where they stack up against industry standards to help prioritize where changes need to occur. This may also be used as a mechanism to help build a case for increasing investment in their EA practice.
In short, these companies typically embody some combination of the following characteristics:
- there is already an established EA team;
- investing in EA requires additional buy-in from senior leadership; or
- EA lives in IT only.
1. There is already an established EA team
These customers typically already have an established EA team, meaning that roles with the title “EA” in them exist within the organization. These teams may or may not be centralized. Often EA roles are being pulled into solutioning or implementation activities rather than focusing on more strategic efforts. Sometimes we will observe senior solution architects or engineers miscast as EAs simply because that is the promotion path upward.
2. Investing in EA requires additional buy-in from senior leadership
Companies without sufficient senior leadership buy-in to mature their current EA function typically choose EA assessments in an effort to obtain detailed analysis behind why and how to best invest in EA maturation. We have seen the output and process of going through this effort help provide the necessary information required to drive investment into the EA practice.
3. EA lives in IT only
WWT’s EA framework emphasizes business involvement; we see many companies looking for better ways to showcase EA as an important business enabler. Some companies face challenges, for a variety of reasons, when trying to obtain business involvement in EA. When the business is not sold on investing time (or money) into EA, WWT’s EA Assessment can help bridge the gap.
Why other companies prefer an EA accelerator
For companies looking to quickly show value from EA and do not require a detailed current state assessment, the EA accelerator is often the preferred approach. These companies are looking to see immediate value generation from the EA practice while simultaneously establishing a best in class EA function that is tailored to their organization.
These companies typically embody some combination of the following characteristics:
- senior leadership support for EA already exists;
- limited to no existing EA resources; or
- ready to start “greenfield."
1. Senior leadership support for EA already exists
When senior leadership buy-in for EA already exists, there is typically a strong desire to seek value from EA deliverables applied to specific domains as fast possible—hence the desire for an accelerator. The senior leadership involvement allows for EA deliverable creation without the need to do a detailed assessment first.
2. Limited to no existing EA resources
Companies which lack EA team resources—either because the team is short-staffed or has EA resources “by name only” like to utilize the EA accelerator. These companies do not need a detailed EA assessment because their current EA maturity is understood to be low. The EA accelerator also allows companies to understand the type of team leadership role necessary based on a better understanding of the team’s needs and operations.
3. Ready to start “greenfield”
Customers which prefer to effectively start “greenfield” typically choose to utilize the EA accelerator to kick start an EA function within their organization without the need for a detailed current state assessment. This is often the case when EA is considered broken and it is preferred to set a path forward leveraging best practices as opposed to gaining a detailed understanding and assessment of current practices.
Both the EA assessment and EA accelerator have their merits for kick starting an EA practice—it’s ultimately up to the company based on their needs and culture as to which path forward is best suited for them. The more important outcome is to have an EA practice that is providing high-value, strategic direction for the organization that provides the glue connecting the business to IT. Both approaches will help get a company headed in that direction.