Research Group Says An Agile Enterprise Architecture Operating Model Is Achievable

Global IT research and advisory firm Info-Tech Research Group has released a new research blueprint designed to build an agile enterprise architecture (EA) practice, which it says is “sustainable and relevant and continuously delivers business value.”

In the new research, Info-Tech explains that a business strategy is influenced by market forces and may change quickly and drastically, and the business architecture changes along with it. Meanwhile, technology is slower to adapt to forces because of its complexity and interdependencies that require long-term planning. Info-Tech’s research indicates that the EA practice should strive to have an agile organizational structure and be agile in its delivery. This is achievable by adopting strategy-based design principles to guide operational design.

“Enterprise Architecture evolves from an ‘ivory tower’ to a practical, proactive, no-nonsense approach. It behaves as a trusted advisor, ensuring close collaboration with the business on digital transformation, eventually influencing the overall strategy. It has a synchronization role across all guilds such as business, data, application, infrastructure, integration, security, etc.,” explains Principal Research Director Milena Litoiu. “Enterprise Architecture also has a holistic optimization role as it guides an implementation to obtain superior results. EA might also assume an increasingly important role in external coordination, such as with suppliers, vendors, and partners, to enhance an organization’s ability to adapt to change while making decisions that ensure flexibility and extensibility.”

This blueprint details “a strategy-driven EA organizational design that allows for the creation of value by blending strategy, culture, and service rather than a purely functional design. It takes corporate values and culture into account to ensure the EA practice blends in. This strategy also has stakeholders define the services required from the EA practice, allowing for aligned engagement and deliverables. This provides the EA practice with the required capabilities, a well-defined way of working, and the governance needed to remain successful.

“During the design of the EA operating model, the primary question is how to integrate the EA function with the rest of the business. If the EA function becomes completely embedded within business units, it will become siloed with no enterprise value. If the EA practice functions independently, it will end up with ivory tower syndrome and be seen as a dictatorship. Organizations need to decide on a balance that will work best for them, given culture and development methodologies.

Info-Tech recommends organizations consider implementing the following approach for creating a successful agile EA operating model:

  1. Design an EA Operating Model – Leaders should rethink the EA organization and define a sound set of design principles before they begin to design the EA organization.
  2. Define the EA Organizational Operating Model – The EA operating model structure should be rigid yet flexible enough to meet the needs of the stakeholders it serves.
  3. Implement the EA Organization – A phased approach and a good communications strategy is key to the success of the new EA organization. This will help mitigate the risk of resistance both internally in the EA practice and from the whole organization.”

The Group continues: “Business architecture is the cornerstone that sets the foundation for all other architectural domains – security, data, application, and technology – and enterprise architecture spans across all of the domains of architecture. A well-managed EA practice will help an organization understand the current state of its systems, promote desirable change toward the future state, enable regulatory compliance, and improve effectiveness.”

The Blueprint is available at Agile Enterprise Architecture Operating Model.