Is Your EA Practice Ready For The Shared IT Organization?

Ethan Pack, Enterprise Architect & the Strategic Business Partner for Sales & Marketing, Stewart Title
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Ethan Pack, Enterprise Architect & the Strategic Business Partner for Sales & Marketing, Stewart Title

Ethan Pack, Enterprise Architect & the Strategic Business Partner for Sales & Marketing, Stewart Title

Over the past several decades, Enterprise Architecture (EA) has had myriad definitions and implementations, but themes of aiding organizational strategies, vision, principles, and goals are common within most. Yet, it seems relatively few organizations have been able to realize the value that has been offered by these definitions, promised by architects, desired by stakeholders, or all of the above. While there may be many reasons for shadow IT (hardware and software obtained outside of the IT department and employed by users without approval), technology leaders’ inability to affect positive business outcomes for their firms might very well be one of them—in organizations with and without EA disciplines alike.

"Today’s enterprise architect must be able to strategize and empower “fast track” efforts as well as the traditional more-waterfall project methodologies"

The continued rise of digital business concepts and trends such as the democratization of data, empowering the “needs it now” workforce, and concentrating on the complete customer view introduce an even higher need for alignment and synchronized velocity between lines of business and technology groups. Going from shadow IT to what I would call “shared IT”—that is the endorsed or purposeful positioning of certain technology functions directly within non-IT departments—might very well be the next step in the evolution of enterprise technology in the quest for this ever-elusive coordination and according to the Gartner IT Key Metrics Data 2014 report, it is believed that more than 50 percent of business technology spending will occur outside of IT by 2017.

Embracing a more open technology structure may be the key to unlock the transformative results that corporations demand, but it also introduces new concerns for executives and business leaders such as:

Increased InformationSecurity and Corporate Compliance Risk

Will new threat vectors and data loss channels emerge as a result of more dynamic technology initiatives and solutions? What steps should organizations take to mitigate audit and regulatory risk?

Additional Technology-Related Cost Management Considerations

How can organizations rapidly identify duplicitous technologies or maximize their ability to prevent inefficiencies and wasteful expenditures?

Heightened Attention to Data Governance and Quality

With an increased ability to create of more and diverse content, how can one prevent a proliferation of data silos? Will different interpretation of business logic and terms emerge, potentially affecting operational processes, reporting, and analytical insights?

Staffing a “Business- Technologist” Hybrid Workforce

How will organizations find and develop employees that better blend business and technology concepts? What are the technology knowledge gaps in the line of business?

While the above-mentioned challenges associated with this type of technological exodus could spell doom for unprepared companies, it presents a unique and possibly timely opportunity for organizations looking to launch or re-launch an EA practice. But, how can an EA department navigate an ever-changing landscape of technology, service delivery, and organizational dynamics? Here are some suggestions for a new or existing EA group to maintain focus on the things that really matter:

Understand the Holistic Business Context

Architecture teams with a very heavy technology focus might minimize, overlook, or outright exclude the business domain of EA. Other times, when the business domain is considered, critical gaps may still exist which hinder progress and results. Architects should be diligent in understanding and working with business capabilities, processes, and motivations. Doing so also helps EA more effectively communicate with business leaders, build credibility, anticipate opportunities, and be entrusted to guide the necessary change.

Make Psychology and Culture a Priority

It can often be too easy to minimize or entirely ignore the impact of organizational psychology and culture when contemplating architecture. Implementing governance without factoring in the underlying appetite and culture is a recipe for disaster—especially when the maturity leap is too vast or aspirational. Social skills and emotional intelligence are critical and can make or break all manner of EA endeavors—from selling ideas and design concepts to setting policies and standards.

Advocate for the Customer

By serving as an unofficial voice for the customer, enterprise architects can help drive customer centricity amongst technologists and the broader organization. This key change in perspective helps serve as another sanity check when considering opportunities for growth on the revenue side of the income statement and investment choices affecting the expenses aspect.

Support Multiple Speeds

Today’s enterprise architect must be able to strategize and empower “fast track” efforts as well as the traditional more waterfall project methodologies. Flexibility and an ability to assist with the exploratory and initially nebulous style of execution affords organizations ways to fail fast better within technology efforts. This approach would be the metaphorical GPS compared to the roadmap allowing the business to drive freely, then get dynamic turn-by-turn directions  and corrections once the destination is better known.

Build a Variety of Bridges

In addition to the technology-centered bridges of software integration and network topology, EA practitioners should embrace a developing relationship across their areas of responsibility and foster highly collaborative extended EA team to increase buy-in and alignment with core organizational strategy and goals. Building rapport increases employee engagement and helps avoid the “ivory tower” thinking that often sneaks into EA if a tower begins to form, be sure to quickly install an elevator!

While one cannot predict exactly how the future of enterprise technology will continue to unfold, I hope that the concepts outlined in this article help EA teams in organizations of all varieties regardless of IT staffing, process, and solution configurations to truly thrive and enable the business outcomes that stakeholders seek and deserve.

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