The Value of Enterprise Architecture Explained

Sunday, February 10, 2019 | Likes: 0 | Comments: 0

Mark Paauwe

VP Product Development

Dragon1 Inc

Enterprise Architecture

Two people meet each other at a conference of Innovation in Healthcare and got into a discussion about the digital transformation in their organizations.

One is a lead architect of a large academic hospital in Amsterdam, The Netherlands. The other is a business manager of a home care organization in Berlin.

The business manager talks about how he is annoyed about the invasion of architects in his company. Especially the external young architects coming from the big consulting firms. "Do we really need them and their EA stuff in the organization to do our business better? What do you think of all this?"

The lead architect thinks for a moment and then asks the business manager three questions: "What percentage of the projects were an absolute success the past 3 years, how easy is it to introduce a new home care service and are IT Costs under control or are they exploding?"

The business manager smiles and says: "Aha, trap questions. This is how they do it!"

"No", the lead architect says. "These are not trick questions, but questions about how adaptive the organization is. If people are unhappy about the adaptivity of their organization or even if the existence of the organization is at danger, enterprise architecture as a way of working in processes and projects is of added value."

"For example, look at Amsterdam-city where we are now", the lead architect follows. "A few centuries ago they used well-thought city planning to solve problems of immigrating, defense and trade. These problems could not be solved by just changing a street or building houses. The city architects of Amsterdam came to the conclusion that they had to redesign the layout of the whole city. So they came up a with a Concentric Canal Plan. The plan consisted of a set of principles which they applied integrally in a region. The new city plan allowed for using cheap water transport and quick delivery. The spike in population was addressed with many narrow houses. The owners decided to use their houses are warehouses, offices and docks. The new city plan supported the massive economic boom of the city."

"Ok, I understand that a thorough redesign with principles (and calling that architecture) of a city can improve the industry and economy of a city. But how does that compare to a company?"

The lead architect answers: "Well, the architecture of an organization is like the architecture of a city. It is a set of principles that guide the continuous transformation of an organization."

"Suppose that in the current situation there are 10 computer systems in a hospital where all departments store generic and specific information about a patient, in their own database, in their own way." Suppose that a patient marries and moves to a different city, then the name and address of the patient needs to be changed in 10 different systems. In practice, we have seen that problems arise because the data change is not carried in all these systems, at once. If you have a great many data changes in patient files, then you can imagine that things can go wrong. Now by creating a design of the future situation, you can solve this problem. If the enterprise architects of the hospital use the Principle of Single Source Of Truth when redesigning the whole IT of the hospital (with an IT blueprint), the generic Name and Address data of a patient is only stored once and referred to from specific patient data. Next, an IT roadmap is created showing when which computer system is replaced by a new version that makes use of that principle."

The business manager said that this is really simple to understand: "But is enterprise architecture only using one principle to redesign the IT of the organization?"

The lead architect answered:" No, Enterprise Architecture is not only IT. EA address the organization as a holistic system. So every part of the domain of the organization is part of enterprise architecture: business, IT, sales, procurement, HR, development, customer services, boardroom, suppliers. Everything. An enterprise architecture can easily consist of over 100 principles, grouped into domains. Making it easy to implement principles, often principles are converted or translated into standards used by procurement and in projects."

"Aha", the business manager said. "Now I get what Enterprise Architecture is: a set of principles integrally applied onto an organization to remove problems that are not easily solved by using a regional or local solution.".

"Exactly", the lead architect said. "And in order to be able to find the correct principles for the organization, you need the strategy of the organization and you need to know the priorities, needs and requirements from key stakeholders. And if you know these then you can realize the benefits of EA."

"Well if that is the case, the business manager said, I'd better be providing my strategic goals, priorities and requirements to the architects so that the projects get the right principles, designs and standards. And I get understandable views of the enterprise blueprint and the roadmap from the architects. Thank you for this talk. I can now explain the added value of Enterprise Architecture in one sentence: having enterprise-wide insights and overviews of dependencies and impact of change, standardization, cost reduction, risk mitigation, agility, strategy realization and innovation are enabled by the integral application of principles."

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