Successfully deploy enterprise architecture by transitioning your focus from strategy to operations and technology

The term enterprise architecture (EA) is something we are hearing about from our customers on a weekly, if not daily, basis. The definition of EA that makes the most sense to me is that it is the abstracted level of IT assets that allows the business to function. The practice of EA has been around for about 20 years, and there are organizations that build EA standards, frameworks, publish books, hold conferences and give certifications (i.e., The Open Group), but there is still confusion about exactly what EA is. Some organizations have an EA team that is performing more solution architecture or engineering-type activities, and other organizations have EAs that are siloed within one domain (e.g. network EAs, security EAs, application EAs). EA needs to be practiced at the enterprise level, and performing a truly architectural function, for it to be truly effective for an enterprise. To better understand this, let’s look at some definitions.

A formal definition of EA from the Federation of Enterprise Architecture Professional Organizations states:

“Enterprise Architecture is a well-defined practice for conducting enterprise analysis, design, planning, and implementation, using a holistic approach at all times, for the successful development and execution of strategy. Enterprise Architecture applies architecture principles and practices to guide organizations through the business, information, process, and technology changes necessary to execute their strategies. These practices utilize the various aspects of an enterprise to identify, motivate, and achieve these changes.”

This stems from the formal definition of architecture provided by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE-1471-2000):

“The fundamental organization of a system embodied in its components, their relationships to each other, and to the environment, and the principles guiding its design and evolution.”

Enterprise Architecture’s Potential Failure Modes

Over the years, the practice of enterprise architecture (EA) has gone through a variety of transformations, and in many cases, it has failed to live up to its promise. There are typically four reasons why an EA function fails in an organization:

  1. The EA process is not trusted by the organization.
  2. The organization is not held accountable to conform to the EA artifacts created.
  3. EA teams are viewed as an “ivory tower,” mandating activity without regard for the realities of the organization’s day-to-day challenges.
  4. EA artifacts are not easily consumable.

Our Approach to Enterprise Architecture

To alleviate these challenges, WWT is taking a different approach to enterprise architecture (EA) with our customers. The goal is to modernize the EA process and tie the artifacts created (e.g., strategies, roadmaps, reference architectures, etc.) directly to actionable results. WWT and the customer’s EA team will approach the authoring process not as creators, but as curators of the collective mindshare of the organization.

The WWT process for creating EA artifacts is iterative and collaborative, in order to gain trust within the customer’s wider organization. In addition, the artifacts are disseminated using modern methodologies, such as a wiki, to make the materials consumable, available and linkable. Finally, a governance process is developed within the customer’s organization to officially ratify these artifacts so they carry the weight of policy and can be enforced holistically.

The Full Enterprise Architecture Picture

Taking a step back, the process described above is only one “layer of the cake”— the strategic layer. As the artifacts are curated by the enterprise architecture (EA) team, the rest of the organization must come onboard to put those strategies, roadmaps, etc. into practice. To do this, there needs to be a transition from a focus on strategy to a focus on operations and technology as shown in the figure below.

hand using computer

This focus on people/process and how the business should organize to execute is often overlooked and can make a significant impact on achieving the strategies set out by the organization. Having a strategy down on paper is important, but the process of restructuring the organization to meet this strategy can lead to decisions that may be detrimental to the organization. To bring clarity to this lofty task, we offer an Operational Readiness Assessment (ORA). The ORA takes a deeper look at the current state of affairs and draws up more detailed plans for how the organization will go from where they are today to where they want to be. The focus of this offering is on preparing the people in the organization for change, providing clear, consistent communication of what is to come and why and a tactical plan of attack.

Once the strategies are in place, and the organization is ready for a transformation, it is time for the architecture to be deployed according to plan. This is where the rubber meets the road, and where we have decades of experience to rely on. This stage is termed enterprise architecture deployment, and it is the actual design and integration of hardware, software and business processes to enable the business to store, transmit and transform data, with the overall goal creating valuable business outcomes.

At WWT, we have been helping customers architect/design, test and experiment with new enterprise architecture deployments. Our Advanced Technology Center (ATC) provides a significant differentiator for our customers to get hands-on experience with real hardware and software components in a safe and stable environment. These experiences include deploying and testing a greenfield next generation data center design, recreating a customer’s solution architecture and walking through the steps to safely migrate to a more stable/API driven architecture. Not only is the ATC a giant enterprise lab and testing facility, it is also filled with deep technical engineers and architects who are always learning and gathering best practices from our customers and partners around the world.

Continue the enterprise architecture conversation by posting your challenges or successes in the comment section below.

Author’s Note: Shout out to Principal Solutions Architect Joe Weber for his contributions to this post.

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