Enterprise architecture (EA) benefits modern organizations in many ways. It provides a holistic, top down view of structure and systems, making it invaluable in managing the complexities of data-driven business.
Once considered solely a function of IT, enterprise architecture has historically operated from an ivory tower. It was often siloed from the business at large, stifling the potential benefits of the holistic view it could have provided.
Now, the growing importance of EA is reflected in its evolving position in the business. Instead of being considered just a function of IT, EA now plays a leading role in bridging the gap between IT and the business.
The practice has evolved in approach, too. In the past, enterprise architecture has played a foundational, support role – largely focused with “keeping the lights on.”
Today its scope is more progressive and business outcome-focused to identify opportunities for growth and change.
As a matter of fact, Gartner has said that EA is becoming a “form of internal management consulting” because it helps define and shape business and operating models, identify risk and opportunities, and create technology roadmaps to suit.
Analyst firm Ovum also recognizes EA’s evolution, referring to today’s EA as AE, or “architect everything,” further demonstrating its newfound scope.
Top Three Enterprise Architecture Benefits
Of course, enterprise architecture can’t sit at the strategy table without results. Following are what we believe to be the top three benefits of enterprise architecture:
1. Manage complexity
Modern organizations are a complicated mesh of different systems and applications of varying degrees of importance and prominence.
The top-down, holistic view of an organization provided by enterprise architecture means that organizations are more able to efficiently and confidently assess such assets. For example, impact analysis might identify areas where an organization can streamline its tech stack and cut costs.
It might uncover redundancies where multiple applications address the same process.
Alternatively, impact analysis might find that a seemingly less prominent application is actual integral to operations in circumstances where leadership are considering phasing it out.
In short, enterprise architecture helps business and IT leaders capture, understand and articulate opportunities, challenges and risks – including security.
2. Supporting the creation of actionable, signature-ready EA deliverables
As well as assessing an organization’s current capabilities, the holistic, top-down view provided by enterprise architecture also helps identify gaps.
A better understanding of its enterprise architecture means an organization can make more informed investment decisions. Of course, this means organizations have a better understanding of what they should invest in.
However, it also helps them better understand when, as more pressing concerns can be identified and roadmaps can be created to reflect an organization’s priorities.
This approach helps an organization meet its current operational demands and opportunities, whilst navigating and mitigating disruptions. It can also ensure it does this in accordance with the longer-term strategic vision of the organization.
3. Increasing agility and speeding time to value
In the era of rapidly evolving technology and rampant – often disruptive – digital transformation, the need for enterprise architecture tools is abundantly clear. Organizations with a healthy understanding of their enterprise architecture are better equipped to evaluate and implement new technology in a timely and efficient manner.
EA tools accelerate analysis and decision support for alternative investment, rationalization, and optimization opportunities and plans and for assessing risk, change and the impact on the organization.
Maturing Enterprise Architecture
To reap such benefits of this new approach to EA, many organizations will have to work to mature their practices.
To be effective, business outcome-focused enterprise architecture needs to be consistent. It needs to be communicable and discernible. It needs to be up to date and accurate.
For many organizations, these standards have been impossible to meet as their enterprise architectures are burdened by the use of systems that were not built for purpose.
Basic visualization tools, spreadsheets and even word processors have typically played stand-in for dedicated EA solutions. The non-purpose-built systems lacked the industry standards needed to accurately capture and align business and IT elements and how they link together.
Additionally, collaboration was often marred by issues with outdated, and even disparate file versions and types. This being due to business’ lacking the systems necessary to continuously and methodically maintain models, frameworks and concepts as they evolve.
Therefore, a key milestone in maturing a modern enterprise architecture initiative, is developing a single source of truth, consistent across the enterprise. This requires the implementation of a dedicated, centralized and collaborative enterprise architecture tool, be that on-premise, or via the cloud.
Of course, such a tool should cover enterprise architecture’s legacy capabilities and expectations. Those include support for industry standard frameworks and notation, the ability to perform impact analysis and the streamlining of systems and applications.
But to mature the practice, organizations should implement an EA tool with a shared, centralized metadata repository and role-based access.
It should have the ability to share an integrated set of views and information on strategy, business capabilities, applications, information assets, technologies, etc., to help provide stakeholders with a thorough understanding of the enterprise.
Once this milestone has been met, organizations can really begin to enjoy the benefits of enterprise architecture, in the modern, data-driven business context.
If the benefits of enterprise architecture would help your business, and you’d like to be the next erwin EA success story, try erwin’s enterprise architecture and business process modeling software for free.