Derive value from Enterprise Architecture Management
Good Enterprise Architecture (EA), and above all the good management of this architecture, offers numerous benefits. At least it does for anyone who successfully implements it in practice and embeds enterprise architecture management as a discipline within their company. However, it is precisely here that the greatest challenge lies. This has become evident from a joint study by Vlerick Business School and Prime Foundation Partner LoQutus, which focused on companies in various different sectors. The recently founded Centre for Excellence in Enterprise Architecture Management aims to help organisations translate the theories and concepts into practice.
A company is not a monolithic entity but a complex system of components – processes, functions, skills, information flows, applications, technical infrastructure etc. Nor does it operate in a vacuum – it forms part of an ecosystem of other companies, organisations and individuals. EA management is the discipline which aims to map the components of the system, their interrelationships and interdependence, with the aim of aligning them as effectively as possible and managing the complexity of the system, in order to contribute to the realisation of company objectives.
Bjorn Cumps, postgraduate researcher and lecturer at Vlerick, is the driving force behind the Centre for Excellence together with professor Stijn Viaene (Head of Operations and Technology Management) and LoQutus. He explains the benefits offered by EA management: “EA management helps to maintain an overview and prevents different projects from kicking-off at random. It encourages reusability and helps to avoid duplication of effort, ultimately leading to cost savings. In addition, it undoubtedly helps to align business requirements, business processes and IT infrastructure more effectively. Finally, it makes a company more flexible and more agile. With a better structural overview, it is easier to assess whether and how to respond to changes, which is all the more important given today's turbulent environment.” Stijn continues: “In this way, EA management will become an incentive, a driving force behind innovation.”
Equal numbers of challenges
Despite the many benefits, EA management is nonetheless faced with several challenges. “First and foremost, it is difficult to demonstrate that EA provides value, just as it is difficult to measure and quantify the value of strategy development or planning,” says Stijn. In addition, it has an image problem: the discipline stems from the IT and engineering fields. Gradually, people realised that the way of thinking which is unique to EA management was just as relevant to the business world, certainly as businesses became increasingly steeped in technology. However, it was precisely this structured and formalised approach which proved difficult to reconcile with the usually rather more practical business mentality. One of the things the study revealed was that EA management is therefore often restricted to isolated initiatives by enterprise architects who are convinced of the benefits. These are generally IT people who nonetheless find themselves wrestling with the issue of how to embed their approach and insights within the rest of the company. “In other words, there is a need for EA 2.0 and more practical EA management,” explains Stijn. “For this reason, enterprise architects need to be creative organisation designers who can build bridges between IT and business. Technical skills alone are not enough. Good architects will be networkers with strong communication skills who can influence and convince people and steer things in the right direction. Anyone expecting to combine all these qualities in a single individual will spend a long time looking. Ideally, an organisation will embody all these qualities within a team.”
The Centre has some answers
Quite a few theoretical insights, models and frameworks already exist and EA management is now pretty well known within the IT environment. What is important now is for it to gain acceptance in the organisation as a whole. But how should this be tackled?
The Centre for Excellence was established by Vlerick and LoQutus precisely in order to deal with the numerous issues faced by companies and organisations. As an expert in the field of EA management and with a team of over 40 architects, LoQutus is an important player in Belgium and has gained a great deal of practical experience as a result. Although LoQutus mainly positions itself as an IT expert, it is more convinced than anyone that EA management needs to be applicable in practice. “Currently, EA management is still mainly associated with IT. We want to change this,” says Joachim Vanden Brande, Managing Director of LoQutus. “One of the main aims of the Centre for Excellence is to make EA management a strategy-supporting discipline. Companies are being faced with major challenges – developing strategies, adjusting and implementing them, innovating, creating project programmes etc. The Centre is a huge help for anyone who wishes to tackle these challenges more effectively. As well as experts from LoQutus and researchers and lecturers from Vlerick with relevant academic expertise, it mainly brings together members from various different sectors of the corporate world who are keen to share their own experiences, knowledge and skills. This makes the Centre an interesting ecosystem with a scope and diversity which large organisations cannot achieve.”
Ready to take the first step?
It's not too late to join. The first Centre activities are planned for January 2014.