I hadn’t had a government-wide enterprise architecture (EA) conversation for while, and this is why earlier today I welcomed a meeting with a client from the e-government office of a regional government, to discuss about their attempt to use an EA approach to identify commonalities across departments and help rationalize processes, data, applications and infrastructure.
Large scale EA initiatives in government tend not to be successful in government, unless they are associated to a new initiative or tightly connected to the budget process. In this case, the use of EA seems to be driven by softer objectives. I made almost immediately the point that, in absence of a real “stick” to make people in different departments (there are about 70) apply EA, it would be essential to answer – for each department – the question “What’s in it for me?”
The client said that they are already planning to drop the term “architecture”, which is creating misunderstandings and all sort of negative reactions. I observed that also the term “enterprise” may not be so welcome, as it sounds to individual departments as a centrally-driven initiative to take control out of them.
What is really needed is an inventory or cataloguing initiative, left to each individual department, followed by a very simple, high-level mapping between each asset identified and policy objectives of that department. Something as simple as a “low-medium-high” rating expressing how critical that asset is to policy priorities should give an initial map of value alignment. This should be seen as a tool for each department to help it figure out- albeit at a high level – the nature of its portfolio. Only at a later stage such results may be shared across departments to identify areas where common approaches or complementarities would be beneficial.
Of course if they can achieve this by adopting a fully-fledged EA approach, so much better. On the other hand, if they need to make a significant effort to bring everybody to the same level of understanding and maturity on EA, then it is better to go with something that leaves them in their comfort zone but still delivers value both to them and – in the longer term – at an enterprise level.