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Three Questions to Ask When Launching Enterprise Architecture

By Lucas Kobat | June 25, 2021 | 1 Comment

As an advisor at Gartner, I advise enterprise architecture (EA) leaders to help them tackle top of mind challenges. One of the most common questions I receive is, “How can I start enterprise architecture at my organization?” This question is terribly broad and does not have a ‘silver bullet’ answer.

When asked how to start enterprise architecture (EA) I always clarify that EA is a discipline first; a function when necessary. Gartner defines EA as:

“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.”

Ultimately, the initial question on how to start EA can only be answered through answering three subsequent questions:

1. What does your organization care most about?

2. What value can EA deliver against organizational priorities?

3. How will EA deliver value to stakeholders?

Keep reading below for critical detail on how to best answer these questions given your organizational context.

1. What does your organization care most about?

Too often, organizations take an ivory tower approach to enterprise architecture. EA groups in their ivory towers will attempt to create standards and decision frameworks from an IT-centric focus. Choosing not to operate from a business-centric lens will lead to failure of EA as a discipline at your organization.

To ensure business-centricity in your EA discipline you must start with what is most important to your organization. Deducing your organization’s top priorities is an important but, sometimes, elusive accomplishment for EA groups. Information sources helpful in identifying organizational priorities include the CEO’s strategic roadmap, performance contracts of senior executives, and interviews with business partners.

2. What value can EA deliver against organizational priorities?

Once organizational priorities are identified, a value proposition must be created to document what EA will do to enable those priorities. A value proposition for the EA program acts as a high-level narrative useful in socializing EA’s impact with stakeholders. Interestingly, we have seen EA groups elevating the level of value they deliver over the past few years. Moving beyond supporting solutions delivery and providing technology governance, EA groups are spending more time and energy informing business strategies, helping to build and support new digital foundations, and orchestrating product management decisions.

This shift in emphasis from the type of value EA groups are providing to their respective organizations tracks with the trend of increased digital ambitions that we’ve seen across industries. CEOs and boards are focused on sustaining the levels of digital innovation they were forced to achieve because of public policy responses to the COVID-19 pandemic. This CEO focus presents an opportunity for EA groups to permanently establish themselves as trusted advisors for digital business strategy; where the synchronization of business and technology is paramount to success.

3. How will EA deliver value to stakeholders?

The final question that must be answered to fully address how to start EA at any organization is determining how the identified EA value will be delivered to stakeholders. EA groups must determine both the stakeholders they will serve and also how they will serve them.

Jobs to Be Done analysis can be used to identify stakeholders. This analysis highlights stakeholders that need support in areas where EA groups excel. For example, stakeholders who are focused on digital business, who are involved in innovative initiatives, or who have pain points caused by technological uncertainty are prime stakeholders for EA groups to serve.

In combination with stakeholder identification, EA groups need to establish a mechanism for value delivery. Many EA groups have found success managing EA’s mandate through a set of services or delivered to identified stakeholders. EA groups design their services as easy engagement points for stakeholders. Service owners monitor stakeholder needs to assess when service changes are needed.

Putting It All Together

Answering the three questions above will allow EA groups to determine how to start EA as a discipline within their respective organizations. Putting it all together can be a challenge, which is where Gartner is happy to help. Contact us today for support in establishing EA as a discipline at your organization!

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1 Comment

  • Roman Myronov says:

    EA is definitely an org-wide tool achieving better management of modern IT-dependent business. Hence EA groups can focus on supporting the three most common business situations – scaling a business, scaling business down, and restructuring\pivoting business, do you agree?