A holistic view of enterprise processes and requirements is vital to any growing organisation.
The relationship between business objectives and IT can often become disconnected when there is a lack of effective forward planning within the organisation.
Without a clear view of an ideal future state of the enterprise, it becomes easy for businesses to fall into the trap of implementing disparate business capabilities, applications and infrastructure components which do not optimally relate to each other.
In time, these organisations are often faced with incongruent IT substructures which no longer cater to expanding needs. Existing resources are subsequently removed and replaced with a more unified and effective solution. Although this strategy offers a short term answer to the difficulty of escalating needs, it also results in recurring capital investment and low asset realisation.
Enterprise architecture is a discipline which seeks to address this challenge by bridging the gap between business strategy and actual enterprise change and investment.
Working closely with key stakeholders such as the Chief Information Officer, Enterprise Architecture teams seek to define a comprehensive future state vision of the business based on growing infrastructure requirements.
By comparing this vision with the current environment these specialists equip the organisation with a comprehensive roadmap which identifies potential problem areas while planning and focussing future investments.
Enterprise architecture offers a comprehensive, business driven view of current and future infrastructure requirements within a business with a view to aligning IT investments with long term strategy while reducing risk and engineering adaptive solutions.
Although this kind of high level planning is popular within the South African banking and insurance sectors, adoption levels within the mining, manufacturing and SME markets are still low.
This may be due to a lack of understanding around when to engage in an enterprise architecture discussion. Ideally, enterprises that have reached maturity or are spending significant resources on IT related purchases should initiate a thorough infrastructure planning process.
As organisations grow, it becomes increasingly important to hold a holistic view of the enterprise as a whole, rather than viewing each business process or capability in a siloed manner. Effective enterprise architecture arms developing organisations with a broad assessment of current and future needs and also encourages consistency and IT governance within all environments.
Organisations planning to implement an enterprise architecture strategy should ensure that the process is approached in a comprehensive and logical manner.
Internationally recognised analyst group Gartner encourages organisations that are new to this concept to focus the bulk of their resources on strategising and planning, identifying decision making processes and driving change management within the organisation before executing an enterprise architecture program.
In these cases, it is often prudent to approach a team of consultants well versed in the development and application of enterprise architecture to offer guidance during this process.
Businesses should be wary of taking advice from consultants or advisors that have limited experience in the practical implementation of new business capabilities. Without hands on knowledge of underlying business processes and the required technology, enterprise architecture can easily become detached from realistic costing models and practical use.
One of the most effective ways to combat improper planning and wasted resources is to roll out pilot systems in order to test their effectiveness. A fresh enterprise strategy often requires the inclusion of bleeding edge technologies and new processes which have not yet been proven in a unique sector or environment.
By thoroughly assessing the performance of a new platform prior to rollout on an enterprise wide scale, businesses are ensuring that the proposed strategy and the systems attached to it comprehensively meet long term requirements.
Enterprise architecture is integral to understanding business processes as a whole and informing future investments. Despite this, it only represents one component of a more all-encompassing business planning discussion. Without a clear organisational strategy, determining a new approach to enterprise architecture can often be ineffective.
For this reason, Ovations encourages maturing organisations to develop a principal business strategy which incorporates each of the most vital operational elements prior to tackling a long term approach to IT.
Chris Kleb, Principal Consultant, Ovations