Friday, March 20, 2009

Case Studies in Enterprise Architecture

A few nights ago, I attended a fascinating evening with Wayne Horkan, the CTO of Sun Microsystems for UK and Ireland, who presented his views on Enterprise Architecture. The event was jointly organised by IET, the BCS Manchester branch with a pitch for the recently formed BCS Enterprise Architecture Specialist Group forming the warm act before Wayne's presentation.

Wayne presented his experience in 3 (anonymous) organisations who experienced difficulties in their approach to delivering an enterprise architecture. The problems could easily be addressed by recognising the key and important role of enterprise architects who maintain an understanding of the business context, provides domain knowledge and ensure that the architecture and supporting IT remains aligned with the business. 

In assessing any programme, a simple 4 stage approach is followed:

  1. Gather the facts by a series of interviews and information gathering. This includes understanding the current 'as is' enterprise architecture, the current IT/IS setup and the 'vision' for the future.
  2. Analyse the data
  3. Determine the key conclusions/recommendations and the way foward. This includes establishing the order of change to ensure that the changes deliver value to the organisation without destablising the exsiting organisation.
  4. Assess the project against the five key areas of likely project failure:

  • Strategy. Is it really needed? Why is it needed now? Will it deliver a realistic ROI?
  • Contractual. Is the contract, including the financial elements, appropriate defined and achievable?
  • Process/procedures. Are we in control or out of control?
  • Politics and personnel. Is there buy-in from all concerned/affected?
  • Technical and architectural. The least likely cause of project failure (apparently) but need to ensure that the right resources are available in order to deliver the right solution.

Wayne concluded with a number of best practices based on his experiences with these (and other) organisations:

  1. Ignore the religious arguments about which framework to use. Just pick a single framework and stick with it. Most organisations use a blend of Zachman (artefact focused) and TOGAF (procedurally focused). None of the frameworks provide a magic bullet with which success is guaranteed.

  2. Obtain sponsorship from key stakeholders. The stakeholders must have a strategy for the business, which may change over time, that is communicated to the EA team.

  3. The EA team must continually:

  • Remain delivery focused, providing value to the organisation

  • Involve the whole team (consisting of Enterprise, Infrastructure and Application architects) in all decisions, ensuring that cross-team communication is integral to the team (no silos)

  • Ensure that there is the right mix of technical skills to deliver the right architecture

  • Obtain and foster Sponsorship, Sponsorship, Sponsorship without which a programme is likely to fail

  • Keep aligned (and checking) with the business strategy

As a reality check, Wayne highlighted that the current economic climate now requires that the investment in enterprise architecture must be seen to deliver value far more quickly (i.e. in the matter of months rather than years) to the business than has previously been tolerated.

The session was well attended and left the audience with much to consider in future projects.

The slides, and Wayne's personal views on the session are contained here.

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