September 13, 2010, 8:46 PM — An effective enterprise architecture (EA) practice can eliminate business-IT-alignment problems, bring order and purpose to an organization's use of technology, and lead an enterprise on the road to greater collaboration and innovation. The problem is that with these ambitious goals, EAs often face the daunting task of convincing business and IT leaders with operational responsibilities, near-term deliverables, and parochial interests to focus on the value of enterprise synergies. It's all too common to see EA programs crash and burn because architects fail to convince key stakeholders of their value.
To understand how successful EA teams gain credibility within their organizations and show the value of strategic architecture activity, my colleagues and I recently turned our attention toward Forrester Leadership Boards' (FLB) Enterprise Architecture Council. Case studies from council members revealed EA leaders must create an agenda that provides near-term value while weaving in progress towards strategic objectives. Based on their insight and real-world experiences, Forrester has defined four best practices for starting or refreshing EA programs:
1. Focus intensely on clearly defined goals
Most EA teams have more work on their hands than resources, making it easy to stay busy and productive without planning extensively. However, just staying busy with valuable tasks does not ensure success. EA teams should take time to revisit their drivers and priorities at least once a year to ensure that they are creating value and making concrete progress against the goals they communicated to their stakeholders. To ensure that you're defining the right goals, consider running a two-day workshop to get issues on the table (day one) and brainstorm your plan (day two).
[ See also: Forget business-IT alignment; go for immersion ]
Conversations with FLB senior architects revealed that council member Rob Rubio, CIO of Woodmen of the World, used this workshop formula to jump-start a formal EA program within an environment where the best justification for a course of action was "we've always done it that way." By including both business area and technology subject-matter experts in the discussion, it became clear that the biggest need was to significantly improve Woodmen's ability to respond quickly to regulatory changes and competitive business requirements. From this conclusion, Mr. Rubio was able focus his team on what mattered most to the business: improving agility and flexibility.
2. Base EA goals on what matters to the business now