Are You the Master of Your Architectural Landscape?

Appropriate maturity, knowledge and skills are key to implementing an enterprise architecture approach

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So, it’s needle-moving time at your organization.

Select any initiative from the following list—IT, business process, financial, ecosystem—and the change or solution being contemplated and, eventually, enacted, for that initiative can’t afford to flounder along the typical, old-school continuum.

In other words, a siloed approach, lack of information sharing, and continually addressing the same issues will only yield results that aren’t sustainable or transformable over time. Sound familiar?

It’s this familiarity, unfortunately, that has sabotaged a clear, unfiltered understanding of the big picture and prevented innovative ideas from being cultivated, solutions from taking hold, and change from successfully being incorporated throughout the enterprise.

Many organizations know that they need to improve their processes in order to successfully manage change, but don’t know how to accomplish that. They typically either spend very little on process improvement, because they are unsure how best to proceed, or spend a lot, on a number of parallel and unfocused efforts.

Which is where enterprise architecture comes in.

With roots in the desire to serve the best interests in the enterprise over an individual department or project, enterprise architecture holistically solves problems, answers questions, and creates opportunity paths, allowing for better-informed decisions faster about the architectural landscape.

But, what is your architectural landscape? Can you picture it, let alone describe it? Or, to put it bluntly, are you the master of your architectural landscape? If not, do you have architects with the requisite knowledge, skills, and maturity to help map a path to mastery in the next few months?

The answer to this critical question will determine your organization’s ability to architect change within an appropriately scoped initiative in a way that will show architecture to be a highly valued discipline in the rapidly changing business and technology world in which we live. Consider these factors:

  • The knowledge you have about your investments, people, assets, and processes, and your level of confidence in answering related questions about such “building blocks”
  • Your understanding of the “problem space” and “solution space”
  • Which organizational entities are important and their interrelationships
  • The trending topics that business people are discussing and what they want to know more about
  • The level of executive support in your organization

It’s at this point, frequently, when organizations might question the need or desire for enterprise architecture altogether, citing a lack of knowledge sharing, sponsorship, investment dollars, or a champion.

A “maturity assessment” can shed vital insight on an organization’s ability to perform in the concerned areas. These assessments can also highlight the practices to focus on to achieve the best possible process improvement and highest return on investment. Models such as the Department of Commerce’s Enterprise Architectural Capability Maturity provide a framework representing the key components of a productive enterprise architecture setup.

Successfully architecting change in your enterprise isn’t designed to be an easy or linear process. Achieving your long-term transformation goals is iterative, requiring an examination of the landscape from multiple perspectives in a way that will “connect the dots” among disciplines, domains, and methods.

Understanding your architectural landscape will put you in a much better position to optimize a culture responsive to the desired change and supportive of the business strategy.

Accordingly, at the right maturity level, your organization will be able to skillfully manipulate a particular enterprise’s structure and behavior and bring about the transformational change you are seeking.

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Steven Else, PhD
About Steven Else, PhD 2 Articles
Dr. Steven Else is the founder and CEO of EA Principals, Inc., a leading authority in enterprise architecture certification and professional services, and author of the book Organization Theory and Transformation of Large, Complex Organizations.