erwin Expert Blog

Enterprise Architecture & Innovation Management: exploring the links

In a corporate sense, innovation management is about quickly and effectively implementing your organization goals through the adoption of innovative ideas, products, processes and business models. Most organizations are beginning to realize that to drive business growth and maintain a competitive advantage, innovation needs to be discovered and implemented quickly and with care to ensure maximum value.

The process of innovation needs to be managed and governed in the organization and is an important facet of a company’s overall function.

Enterprise architecture (EA) is a perennial tool for innovation. This is because once you develop a good idea; you need to ensure that EA is leveraged to understand how to implement it successfully. Investment in a particular idea requires a degree of confidence that a product, service, IT component or business process is going to make it to market or change the business positively. Conversely, IT requires traceability back to the innovation that has driven it. Not having this traceability means that it’s difficult to see the value of IT and how it drives the business. Additionally, there is a need to leverage the limited interaction between those who innovate and those who manage EA.

Without EA, decision making around the right ideas and requirements is much more of a lottery. And, while there are more and more projects on the go and a rise in agile development approaches, companies simply do not invest enough time in combining innovation and EA. DevOps and continuous delivery are prime candidates for connection into innovation management. In the context of speed and time to market, where the frequency, capability and release cycles are key to competitive advantage; EA’s support of decision making allows innovative ideas to be de-risked without costly mistakes.

The importance of an agile approach to Enterprise Architecture

Enterprise architecture has often failed when it’s targeted at modeling the entire enterprise so performing the appropriate amount of enterprise architecture is required to achieve results. Agile approaches such as Scrum can sometimes be used to build small pieces of enterprise architecture that deliver exactly what is needed. Scrum techniques harness team working, delivery in time slots and identifying ‘experts’ to help with specific issues.

Other techniques such as ‘Kanban’ can be used to help visualize the status of architectural concepts and their journey in the agile process. In innovation management we can show users the journey of different concepts in the innovation lifecycle, which improves the visibility for the whole team. When coupled with EA frameworks such as ArchiMate and TOGAF, Scrum provides the focus to EA.

An Agile approach to EA allows for continuous improvement and ties nicely to incremental ideas that the business receives.

Agile Enterprise Architecture and Innovation Management in summary

We’ve noticed that EA thinking is not influencing innovation management in the way it should be because innovation projects are not necessarily aligned with the transformational needs of the business. EA is typically addressing transformational challenges such as mergers/acquisitions, business and IT alignment, adoption of big data, IT outsourcing etc. There are too many ideas and many more projects than there needs to be.

EA needs to find a place to influence innovation management. Where innovation is growing, EA provides just enough architecture to help influence innovation decision making and current innovation management platforms have not addressed EA.

It’s an oversight but its understandable because the heritage of these older platforms does not provide the rigour needed for an EA approach. Organizations are telling us their resources are scarce so it’s absolutely crucial that we make use of the resources in a way that benefits everyone. With Innovation Management and EA, we can help companies do this by providing them with guidance in selecting the right course of action from the resources available. Consequently, a platform that can marry innovation management and agile EA can provide true decision making for innovation initiatives and EA activities.

Innovation needs to be real, and linking it to the underlying enterprise architecture demonstrates how ideas have evolved. Enterprise Architecture needs to be able to address real innovation. If the architecture changes what effect does this have on innovation and its related strategies? Innovation Management and Agile Enterprise Architecture go hand in hand. Although each can be successful in their own right, it’s when they are used in conjunction with each other that the full benefits can be realized.