In this article

A practical enterprise architecture (EA) function creates a comprehensive decision-making framework that results in accelerated identification and prioritization of business and technology initiatives. The decision-making framework has foundational components (e.g., guiding principles) and domain-specific components (e.g., strategies, road-maps, reference architectures) that work together to build a strategic "backbone" to support the execution of all downstream products, projects and programs. 

Effective EA strategy means taking a practical approach

Taking a look at an example domain mapping from the healthcare industry below, one can see that EA truly is expansive across both business and technology.

Example domain mapping of a healthcare organization
Figure 1: Example domain mapping of a healthcare organization

In collaboration with the broader organization and subject matter experts, enterprise architects curate foundational, enterprise-wide components for decision-making that inform and drive domain-specific strategies and roadmaps (i.e., EA strategy and EA roadmap) for each domain of the organization (i.e., small boxes in figure 1 above), across both business and technology.

In alignment with the organization's overarching guiding principles, an EA strategy provides guidelines and guardrails for decision-making within a certain domain (e.g., storage, data governance, asset management). The EA strategy drives the development of an EA roadmap, which details the future capabilities desired within that domain. The curation, documentation and messaging of these desired future capabilities across the enterprise is the key deliverable of the EA function.  

At the end of the day, EA is focused on capabilities of the organization. Once those are understood, the organization can build/buy tools and technologies that fit those desired future capabilities. 

Components of EA artifact creation
Figure 2: Components of EA artifact creation

Taking it one level deeper, an EA roadmap will provide work units for getting from current state to the future capability desired with dependencies across these work units. Dependencies can be between work units within the same capability, across capabilities and in the same domain or cross-domain. 

Getting the dependencies mapped out accurately across work units is key. It will provide that "connective tissue" needed to clearly prioritize and fund key initiatives.

EA accelerates planning and execution

By developing a dynamic and consistent decision-making framework across business and technology, the groundwork will be laid for the streamlined planning and delivery of transformational solutions. This includes, but is not limited to, collaboration, clear messaging, digestible EA artifacts and having a consultative, accessible EA team

EA strategy delivers transformation
Figure 3: EA strategy delivers transformation

Utilizing guidelines and guardrails established in EA strategy accelerates technology teams' ability to confidently choose vendor or in-house solutions that align to the future direction of the organization. By leveraging reference architectures and work unit dependency mappings, the creation of high and low-level design documents will be better integrated with the broader technology ecosystem. Projects and programs are identified, prioritized and executed with clear ties to top business initiatives and an understanding of the business value the technology solution enables. 

How to get started

  1. Develop a practical EA function within the organization and scale it to be impactful across the organization.
  2. Position a current EA team to better influence strategy, planning and delivery decisions in order to become the connective tissue between the business and IT organizations within a company.
  3. Take the future capabilities developed in an EA program and plan, design and initiate large, inter-dependent technology implementations.
  4. Operational Readiness Assessments can be conducted to deep dive into the current state of a technology domain, identify gaps today versus the desired future state laid out in EA documents and provide investment recommendations around tools and resources to achieve future state.

By clearly tying technology decisions and investments back to business outcomes, technology organizations can become true partners with the business, all of which will be accelerated and productionalized through a practical EA function.