erwin Expert Blog

Enterprise Architecture and Business Process: Common Goals Require Common Tools

For decades now, the professional world has put a great deal of energy into discussing the gulf that exists between business and IT teams within organizations.

They speak different languages, it’s been said, and work toward different goals. Technology plans don’t seem to account for the reality of the business, and business plans don’t account for the capabilities of the technology.

Data governance is one area where business and IT never seemed to establish ownership. Early attempts at data governance treated the idea as a game of volleyball, passing ownership back and forth, with one team responsible for storing data and running applications, and one responsible for using the data for business outcomes.

Today, we see ample evidence this gap is closing at many organizations. Consider:

  • Many technology platforms and software applications now are designed for business users. Business intelligence is a prime example; it’s rare today to see IT pros have to run reports for business users thanks to self-service.
  • Many workers, especially those that came of age surrounded by technology, have a better understanding of both the business and technology that runs their organizations. Education programs also have evolved to help students develop a background in both business and technology.
  • There’s more portability in roles, with technology minds moving to business leadership positions and vice versa.

“The business domain has always existed in enterprise architecture,” says Manuel Ponchaux, director of product management at erwin, Inc. “However, enterprise architecture has traditionally been an IT function with a prime focus on IT. We are now seeing a shift with a greater focus on business outcomes.”

You can see evidence of this blended focus in some of the titles, like “business architect,” being bestowed upon what was traditionally at IT function. These titles demonstrate an understanding that technology cannot exist in the modern organization for the sake of technology alone – technology needs to support the business and its customers. This concept is also a major focus of the digital transformation wave that’s washing over the business world, and thus we see it reflected in job titles that simply didn’t exist a decade ago.

Job titles aside, enterprise architecture (EA) and business process (BP) teams still have different goals, though at many organizations they now work more closely together than they did in the past. Today, both EA and BP teams recognize that their common goal is better business outcomes. Along the way to that goal, each team conducts a number of similar tasks.

Enterprise Architecture and Business Process: Better Together

One prominent example is modeling. Both enterprise architecture and business process teams do modeling, but they do it in different ways at different levels, and they often use different data and tools. This lack of coordination and communication makes it difficult to develop a true sense of a process from the IT and business sides of the equation. It can also lead to duplication of efforts, which is inefficient and likely to add further confusion when trying to understand outcomes.

Building better business outcomes is like following a plan at a construction site. If different teams are making their own decisions about the materials they’re going to use and following their own blueprints, you’re unlikely to see the building you expect to see at the end of the job.

And that’s essentially what is missing at many organizations: A common repository with role-based views, interfaces and dashboard so that enterprise architecture and business process can truly work together using the same blueprint. When enterprise architecture and business process can use common tools that both aid collaboration and help them understand the elements most important to their roles, the result is greater accuracy, increased efficiency and improved outcomes.

erwin’s enterprise architecture and business process tools provide the common repository and role-based views that help these teams work collaboratively toward their common goals. Finally, enterprise architecture and business process can be on the same page.

Business Process Modeling Use Cases

erwin Expert Blog

Mind the Gap: Aligning Business and IT

Aligning business and IT is a serious goal for modern organizations. The rapid pace of technological innovation requires the introduction of new tools and processes to cope.

The importance of business and IT alignment is widely understood and  reflected in the concept’s prevalence in IT-maturity and best-practice conversations. What’s less understood is the substance:  what does “aligning business and IT” really mean and how do organizations make it a reality.

Aligning Business and IT: Collaboration

All together now … strength in unity

To understand and solve any problem, we need to uncover the source.

Broadly speaking, experience tells us that the lack of business and IT alignment is a cultural issue on both sides of the equation. IT teams that classify and treat projects as “IT projects” instead of “business projects” demonstrate the IT cultural bias, as does  referring to a project as an “IT project,” which isolates it from the wider business from the start, making it easy for IT to lose sight of the desired business outcome.

In the end, there is no such thing as just an IT project as all projects should aim to improve the business as a whole.

But cultural issues aren’t easy to overcome. They require a shift in employee mindset, which in turn requires strong leadership. This means IT leadership educating IT teams about  the business strategy behind every project and continuously reinforcing it until that approach becomes second nature.

Today’s IT leader must be a business leader first and a technical specialist second.  Organizations with this type of IT leadership will be in a better position, with business and IT alignment already prioritized, automatic and systemic.

The three best practices for aligning business and IT

1. Understand business strategy and objectives

A business strategy is the vision an enterprise is trying to realize, while objectives are the steps it takes to achieve it. Every department needs to understand  the organization’s strategy and objectives and what will be required  to accomplish them. Then every department and every employee is working toward the same goals.

For IT, business strategy and objectives always should factor into how projects are prioritized and planned.

2. Know your capabilities and map them to enterprise needs to identify gaps

First, you need to understand your current IT environment and the capabilities you have so you can  map them to enterprise requirements. Enterprise architecture enables this understanding with an assessment of the “current state,” including assets at the organization’s disposal and the connections between them. Then you can map the current-state enterprise architecture to business goals, identifying the gaps between the current state and the desired “future state.”

IT’s goal then becomes helping the organization achieve the future state so its goals can be achieved.

3. Use a structured approach to prioritize investments 

An easily understood, repeatable process supported by the appropriate technology provides a rigorous and systematic approach to IT strategy development and delivery. While employing a hodgepodge of tools that work poorly with one another – or not at all – will grind progress to a halt.

A comprehensive data management suite with collaborative features circumvents this issue, so organizations suffer less false starts when attempting to introduce change.

Collaboration ensures mission-critical information is discussed within a business context so IT plans can be implemented with greater understanding and less push-back.

Automatic Cohesion

The ultimate state – current and future – is one in which IT and the enterprise aren’t just aligned; they’ve become one and the same.

The business drives IT, and IT enables or powers the enterprise. In modern enterprises meeting and exceeding customer expectations, IT folks not only “get” the business, they “are” the business.

Sandhill’s Jog Raj will explore aligning business and IT further in a FREE WEBINAR on November 13. Register now.

Mind the Gap: Aligning Business and IT Webinar