Where do you work?
I work in IT.
Often when we think of someone working in Information Technology, we imagine someone who is working in the computing industry, such as a system analyst, programmer or project manager. Our conception of IT is focused on the “technology”; the “T”, of IT.
We become technology-centric and see the world from a techie perspective. While there is nothing wrong with this perspective, we risk overemphasizing the importance of technology and may be less responsive to see the enterprise from a business perspective. When we identify the relationship between a business and its technology, we better understand how to achieve our goals. I believe that the needs of a business should inform its technology, and not the reverse (Sam-Foh’s Rule #1). I also believe that technology should serve a business’s needs by providing new possibilities to solve business problems and enable business opportunities (Sam-Foh’s Rule #2). The technology department becomes a solution enabler and makes “IT” happen for business.
IT departments need a focus on the “I” of IT, meaning IT organizations need to be information-centric. Information is the “crown jewels” of any business, which represents the most important asset for the success of the enterprise. Information is not created equally, and certain data are more valuable for a business than others. This does not mean, however, that information need be treated differently; hackers often access sensitive information via non-sensitive data. Information is crucial for a business to function, which explains why the top-ranking officer in IT is the CIO, The Chief Information Officer.
How can an enterprise become Information-centric?
Organizations invest in Enterprise Architecture, which provides methodology and perspective to develop a business model that guides the organization’s growth and maturity process. Enterprise architecture (EA) is a discipline for proactively and holistically leading enterprise responses to disruptive forces by identifying and analyzing the execution of change toward desired business vision and outcomes (Gartner). EA delivers value by presenting business and IT leaders with signature-ready recommendations for adjusting policies and projects to achieve target business outcomes that capitalize on relevant business disruptions (Gartner).
The EA definition provides a comprehensive description of the discipline of Enterprise Architecture. EA is a discipline, meaning that it is not to be taken for granted. EA as a discipline needs to be nurtured in order to facilitate its effective implementation and development. Enterprise Architecture is not just a theoretical concept describing its different frameworks and methods; it is the realization of signature ready recommendations translated into business outcomes and transformational initiatives. The value of EA must be measurable within the programs and services provided to external and internal customers. EA can take a business to the next level of maturity and growth.
Change is the only constant for businesses, and EA is about the management and execution of change and complexity. Enterprises today are becoming more diverse and complex with stakeholders who are becoming more involved and expect better returns on their investment; Enterprise Architecture provides businesses the tools they need to meet stakeholder expectations.
Domains of Enterprise Architecture
Typically we identify five domains of EA: Business Architecture, Information Architecture, Application Architecture, Technology Architecture, and Security Architecture. There are also quasi-domains like Privacy Architecture, Accessibility Architecture, and – my favourite one – Political Architecture.
In Business Architecture we define the story of the Business for the Business. We learn to understand the Business and how it aligns with the Business Strategy. Quite often when a Business Architecture is presented, we wonder why someone from IT is focusing on the origin of the business. The Business Architect must be a patient diplomat, speaking the language of the Business and understanding its foundation. Business Architecture is not so much about providing IT solutions as it is about enabling Business capabilities and developing valuable services for the customers.
Political Architecture is an extension of the Business Architecture and is applicable when there is a need to be sensitive to the dynamics of the forces at the senior levels of the organization. Political Architecture provides guidelines for effective communication with senior management, emphasizing the functional use of IT terms to avoid any confusion or redundancy. When using IT terminology, one must focus on the Business Outcomes and Services Output to demonstrate how value is created for the customer and how complexity and disruption are managed successfully.
Enterprise Architecture is in the business of design; it represents a value-added design to unlock the potential of the enterprise. EA focuses on the information assets of the enterprise by ensuring that there is a single authoritative source for information; a business facilitates trust by standardizing their knowledge database. Enterprises that use Business and Information Architecture benefit from an information-centric value model that ensures service delivery is regulated by sound security and privacy models.
A matter of insight to drive Enterprise Architecture
An effective EA program is aligned with the Business Strategy. A useful way to think about strategy is to compare it with insight: insight is not reliant on a single set of eyes, but rather focuses on multiple perspectives.
I believe in a three-faceted approach to understanding the needs of a business that encompasses three different perspectives: seeing Beyond, seeing Across, and seeing Through (B.A.T.). Instead of relying on a single method to produce sensory data, bats use echolocation in conjunction with their eyesight to navigate their ecosystem. This intricate combination of sensory techniques represents a useful paradigm for how we can approach IT in a business setting.
Just as how a Telephoto Lens will render distant images as if they are immediately in front of us, “Seeing Beyond” allows us to “see” into the preferred future and bring the vision of this future to the present. Such a perspective allows EA to consider how the design of a target architecture affects the current frame.
Our goals 5 years into the future should inform our actions of today. In order for us to fully understand the scope of any initiative, we need to contextualize our current actions with the overall goals of the business, be they 5 years into the future or 15 years. By informing our current actions with future goals, we are better able to predict and meet demand and plan for possible disruptions.
When we “see Across” we consider multiple stakeholder perspectives, some of which may contrast, and allow EA to integrate these various perspectives. This wide and horizontal perspective is similar to how a wide-angle lens is used to capture a wide number of people standing in a row. Such an approach will allow EA to consider the many different perspectives of the business and provide an integrated and unified approach to develop the core competencies of the enterprise.
Understanding the current organization of our business is equally as important as knowing our future goals. When we collect input from diverse sources we are able to contrast different opinions and perspectives, even ones that conflict with one another. With this range of input we can better understand the scope of our business and implement useful and needed initiatives.
“Seeing Through” represents the capacity to read between the lines. With the two previous approaches, we are contextualizing the information currently available to us against the future goals of our business in order to get a more accurate idea of our business needs. We see through the information presented to us so that we can understand the gap between the metric of measurement and what is being measured. In a business setting, “seeing through” can entail reading an individual’s body language to know if they really believe what they’re saying, or personally investigating the daily operations of a section of your team to ensure that what is being reported about them is correct. In photography, there is no such lens, but one can develop X-ray vision to see the inside making of the enterprise. This is difficult to achieve but not impossible. Over time, one can learn to have x-ray vision and read the complexities of change with some degree of accuracy.
F.I.S.H. Eye Lens
Strategy is Insight supported by Hindsight and Foresight. According to the adage, Hindsight is 20/20 and one can learn from past events. Foresight is the ability to predict and anticipate the future. The right analytical balance of Hindsight and Foresight will provide the right insight to develop an effective strategy for the enterprise. By combining the B.A.T. and F.I.S.H. Eye principles, we can create enterprises that are responsive to the complexity of change and adaptive to disruptive forces.
What does this all mean?
Information Technology is more in-depth than it may initially appear. It is more than simply procuring the newest trends and seeing what they can do. A comprehensive approach to IT in business understands that the needs of the business are what should drive business initiatives and inform technology acquisitions, not vice versa.
Enterprise Architecture ensures that there is alignment to the Business Strategy. The EA strategy is aligned to the Business Strategy and uses Insight to make the enterprise better and more responsive. Insight is about the B.A.T. principle, which benefits from three perspectives working together as a unified lens to guide the enterprise. Insight is perfected by considering Hindsight and Foresight to develop the EA strategy. Enterprise Architecture provides the foundation to make “IT” happen. And just like in the game of tag, we are “IT”.
“Enterprise Architecture – EA.” Gartner IT Glossary, Gartner, Inc., 15 Feb. 2017, www.gartner.com/it-glossary/enterprise-architecture-ea/.
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