• Mike Post

Agility Through Enterprise Architecture

In the recent few years, Enterprise Agility has become one of the key drivers for many organizations to be relevant and to sustain their core businesses. As the change is happening so rapidly in every business sector, if the organizations do not adapt to the speed and scale in delivering their services, they would soon become obsolete and run out of their customer base. To handle and to succeed in the business with the ever-changing business scenarios, transformation initiatives like driving Enterprise Agility has become the most critical priority for present CXOs.

But, driving Agility across the enterprise includes how well the ground level teams are aligned with the business objectives and changing business processes; how well the collaboration and communication mechanism is established within the organization and business stakeholders; in what way the dependencies are handled between the interconnected portfolios within the enterprise; how effectively and efficiently business objectives are met for the organization. This becomes enormous challenge for the organizations while driving agility across the enterprise.

On the other hand, understanding Enterprise Architecture capabilities is an essential aspect while driving this transformation as it supports the representation of the business and IT aspects of the enterprise and their inter-relationships and dependencies. Enterprise Architecture is depiction of the target structure for organizations processes. It describes how business goals are realized by business processes, and how business processes can be served through technology. It has a critical role and is a strategic tool in addressing how business aligns well with the IT teams for addressing the changing business needs (changes from both business process and technology perspective); how the complexity in handling these challenges can be simplified by breaking down further into multiple aspects to tackle them; to deal with the dependencies between various upstream and downstream systems of various portfolios/LOBs by taking an abstracted view at each layer.

But, why do we need to look into driving Enterprise Agility from the perspective of Enterprise Architecture? If we look into the philosophy and the typical characteristics between Agile and Architecture as concepts, both are serving and addressing the related issues (though, within their scope), which any organization typically undergoes. That is, managing the complexity of large-scale systems or simplifying the processes to deal with them. While Agile principles convey to satisfy the customer through early and continuous delivery, harness change, sustained attention to technical design, etc., Architecture concepts focus on making design decisions based on visibility/abstraction of the system, making them maintainable and extensible, identifying risk exposure areas, managing complexity, etc. This would help us from the perspective of not only understating the structural complexity of the enterprise but also in dealing with how to simplify the organization processes keeping them customer-centric.

It is essential for roles like Agile Coaches, Change Agents and Transformation Consultants within the organizations to have visibility into Enterprise Architecture components to understand the interconnections and Inter-dependencies, which would help in providing the right guidance to the teams and in addressing the inefficiencies. Following are some of the critical areas from the practice of Enterprise Architecture (through TOGAF®, a standard of The Open Group) that can help an organization:

  • In assessing the existing technology landscape and identify the opportunities for automation with modern tool stack implementation to reduce the dependencies for manual operations.

  • In developing the required business architecture that defines how an enterprise needs to operate to address business objectives and achieve the business goals.

  • In aligning IT teams with business to understand precisely what the business needs (i.e. fully understanding the business processes and then complement each other).

  • In analyzing the fragmented systems across the enterprise and improve the coherence and interoperability between these systems.

  • In understanding the regulatory compliance requirements of the organization to manage data and application related information for various business functions

One has to do a deep dive into these areas as well to get a holistic view of an enterprise and to deal with the complexity while driving the enterprise agility. This would not only help in visualizing and analyzing the enterprise structure, but also in planning, implementing, and managing the change initiative across the enterprise.

In conclusion, the following are the key outputs from Enterprise Architecture practice which would help an Enterprise Agilist drive this initiative successfully:

Architecture components of Business, Data, Application, Technology, and the interoperability requirements of an Architecture roadmap, Business and IT Operating models for the implemented solution Business, Data, Application and Technology architecture viewpoints addressing key stakeholder’s concerns and Implementation Governance modeling.

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