CIOs are learning that for enterprise architecture to be truly effective, it must focus on the needs of the business and aim for relevance, not completeness.
When the Queensland University of Technology's (QUT's) IT faculty held an evening seminar on enterprise architecture (EA) in February, the room was packed and there were two main questions on everyone's lips: Where's the value? How can architecture help with business alignment?
Enterprise architecture was on the radar screen of virtually all the organizations from which the 120 attendees - almost a record crowd - came, and there was a common understanding of the fundamentals, says associate professor Michael Rosemann, from QUT's Centre for IT Innovation, who headed up the session. But thinking about architecture has undergone a revolution over recent times. Where once most of those attending would have seen EA largely as a way to help the organization to manage the overwhelming complexity of the IT landscape, they now understand that for architecture to be truly effective, it must focus on the needs of the business, and be used to help the organization understand the value of IT. That means letting the business become the driver of your EA, using an intuitive business language, fully understanding the value of an EA, and aiming for relevance, not completeness.
It also requires enterprise architects to focus more on the business (process) layer, and invest efforts in integration of process architecture (content) and enterprise architecture. "An enterprise architecture framework requires an integrated perspective on business, application, information and technology architecture," Rosemann says. "For example, enterprise architecture frameworks have to cater for e-business developments in applications."
Enterprise architects are struggling to find ways to "sell" enterprise architecture to project teams, Rosemann says. It's a difficult concept for business to grasp, and enterprise architects have, on the whole, yet to learn how to be good salesmen. Changing the focus to concentrate on the business can significantly help.
So for those in attendance at QUT's seminar, the hot issues of the night were: How can I quantify the value and how can I use that value proposition to convince business stakeholders and IT development project managers that they should use that enterprise architecture? Eddie Chalk, an information architect at West Australian-based Water Corporation, and Rosemann, who has made a detailed case study of the Water Corporation's experiences, both had some answers.
"Many organizations, including those that made presentations during that evening, had in the past a very IT focus," Rosemann says. "Now they agreed that while it was very important to maintain the information infrastructure layer, more and more attention should go to what the business really wants,"
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