Managing an EA and Making it Valuable
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In this blog, we want to say a bit about one of the biggest hurdles facing the creation of an ‘up-to date’ and ‘actionable’ EA – management of it. This is probably THE biggest hurdle facing a successful EA effort; for many years it’s been at the top of the list of why EA efforts fail or aren’t even attempted.
Documenting, Not Architecting, the House
First an analogy. Building an Enterprise Architecture for an organization has been likened to designing a house. But it’s not really like that at all. When you build the blueprints to design a house, they pretty accurately reflect the house that you’re going to build – the builders use those blueprints to build the house, and those blueprints had better be pretty specific down to the millimeter on how the joints will interconnect, where the plumbing will route, etc.
What Is and What ‘Ought to Be'
When an EA effort starts up, the house is already built -- like it or not. The EA effort either documents what already exists and what how it will be reachitected in several years, or what should exist. It is fools’ folly to try to document the organization down to the most finite level of detail. Unlike a house, the organization is constantly changing in structure. For an old house, you might change the faucet on a bathroom fixture, or even change your pipes from the street from galvanized to copper, but the plumbing design remains in tact.
In an organization – even if it’s an old organization that’s been around 100 years – your processes will constantly change, on a regular basis (in some organizations every six months). Your network infrastructure will move like a rug beneath you. Your organization could be constantly growing in size, taking over other companies with their own set of processes and networks and databases and organizational structures that have to be merged into yours. Your processes will constantly be changing, and your organizational makeup will change even faster – people leaving, new people coming in, and people changing roles and needing to understand how to get things done.
How Much EA Is Enough?
So the challenge to the EA effort is to capture as much information about the current enterprise architecture to make the EA relevant – something that you can make decisions off of, and get value from. Those are two distinct and perpendicular benefits – you don’t have to make decisions off an EA to get value from it. Providing timely and accurate information to your stakeholders – which can be every employee in an organization – is a tremendous value. Put something out there that managers and other employees (your 'stakeholders') can view, analyze, and latch on to – say ‘hey this is great – this gives me something valuable I didn’t have before’. Before you know it, word of mouth will spread and other divisions in the organization will want some of that too.
Carrots Are Good for You and Taste Great!
Most successful EA’s that we’ve seen start off small. As one of our customers once described it, you have to put the carrot out there, and then pull the carrot in when you get nibbles. As an example, we’ve seen a number of architecture efforts that started in a particular division of a large corporation. They documented a set of business processes, and hooked them to the networks and applications that served those processes. Further, they created live links in the tool to sources of record – other tools where those networks had been documented. The coupe de grace is publishing that architecture to a website hosted on the company intranet where everyone can view it. Users were able to navigate the business processes, and dig down to the network architecture and applications used, and then traverse further by clicking on reference links in the published architecture, to burrow down into sources of record for the network applications, servers, databases, and so forth. Tools used: basic System Architect with the SA/Publisher add-on.
Solutions to Help You Jump those Hurdles
Within IBM Rational’s System Architect labs, we’re working away at more functionality to further success stories such as these. And we’ll talk about this in excruciating detail as these blogs continue.