Enterprise architecture provides the foundation for successful business IT initiatives. When properly designed and implemented, enterprise architecture will help business leaders achieve their goals, enabling the organization to become more responsive, efficient and competitive.
Unfortunately, some common mistakes can prevent the architecture of the organization from achieving the intended goals and objectives of the designers. In fact, a defective enterprise architecture can, over time, send the enterprise in a completely wrong direction.
When developing or updating your organization’s architecture, take a step back and make sure it doesn’t fall into any of the following seven traps.
1. Misalignment of EA efforts with business needs
Organizational leaders may design a coherent and articulated architecture, but it will not be successful in the long run unless it focuses on real-world business needs.
Before planning begins, Gina Rahaug, CIO of communications infrastructure service provider Zayo, suggests compiling the most impactful enterprise use cases to stress-test the existing enterprise architecture for potential leaks. Make sure the use cases are relevant, she advises. “If you are facing challenges with order accuracy, [for example,] Make sure to think about why this is on the front end and backend and how a change in the architecture can fix that.”
Raahauge believes that the architecture of the institution is never complete. “She lives and breathes,” she says. Raahauge recommends reviewing the organization’s architecture at least once every five years. “As technology moves faster and faster, we need to be able to survive five years of technological transformations,” she explains.
2. Not taking a customer first approach
It’s important to align design initiatives with a client-centered approach when designing an enterprise architecture, says Philip Hutting, vice president at business and information technology consultancy Capgemini. Customer-centric KPIs for goals and results should be enabled throughout design, facilitating true multichannel customer journeys that address digital and physical interaction, he says. “The way in which the design will achieve the desired results for the organization must be clear and well known to support a successful transformation.”
The customer-centric approach to designing enterprise architecture represents a significant change from traditional product-centric models. “The customer-first approach will challenge the traditional model and has the potential to lead to operating model changes in the future,” Hutting notes. “By not adopting a customer-centric design, organizations may also lose their competitive edge in the market.”
3. Neglecting the centralization of goals and core capabilities
An enterprise architecture that fails to centralize core business objectives and capabilities aims to produce or maintain silos.
Jonathan Bennett, Adobe Digital Government Solutions Technical Director and former enterprise head, warns that when different offices and departments face the same challenge and deploy often overlapping solutions, they entrench themselves in redundant and ineffective systems that prevent progress toward business goals. . “Moreover, once the courses of action are isolated, implementing any institutional architecture at all becomes progressively more difficult.”
Bennett says he witnessed the devastating effect of the silos while working as a foundation engineer for the government agency. “Offices with the budget and human capital to solve immediate problems will develop their own applications and methods rather than building platforms with applications that serve multiple purposes and meet needs across agencies,” he says. “When offices and departments operate separately, they tend to oppose simplification efforts…because they lack a view of the benefits [of] overall business objectives.
One effective way to tear down an isolated organization’s architecture is to invite teams that represent key business functions to index all of their digital tools, including apps, websites, and workforce management software. Then include enterprise-wide processes and policies. Once this comprehensive catalog is created, Bennett says, gaps and strengths can be identified and built upon. “From there, a capacity-driven business architecture could begin to take shape,” he notes.
4. Putting technology before flexibility and business goals
When developing an enterprise architecture, it’s easy to slip into a technology-centric worldview while losing sight of the business value model, says Jonathan Cook, CIO of Arcadia healthcare data and software company. “Business needs are constantly evolving, and we as technology leaders need to enable, support, and accelerate that change.”
When blinded or committed to a technology-centric viewpoint, organization leaders can find themselves caught up in arguing about the superiority of different technology approaches rather than focusing on how to support current and future business needs. “If we fail to provide a resilient and resilient architecture, we can prevent our organizations from effectively competing,” Cook warns. “Over the past 18 months of this pandemic, we’ve seen that companies that can adapt quickly to changing market conditions have been able to survive and even thrive.”
5. To get stuck in the present
An enterprise architecture developed without anticipating future growth requirements is likely to fail. “Without a roadmap, you will face limitations to creating efficiencies, as well as constraints, to support business goals,” says Liz Tlochowski, CIO/CISO for global insurance brokerage firm. “You’ll also face the added expense of trying to reinvent the wheel when you discover that what you’ve built doesn’t serve the company’s operational needs.”
Tluchowski recommends maintaining an open mind when creating any system that is likely to require scalability as the organization grows and/or business needs change. “Use platforms and services that are known for their open architecture, as technology is forever changing and there is a lot that is unpredictable even when you have a plan ready.”
6. Security shorthand
The architecture of the organization has been forced to change over the past few years as the landscape of cyber threats has evolved. “In the past, security was an afterthought or an afterthought,” says Chuck Everett, director of cybersecurity defense at cybersecurity technology firm Deep Instinct. He notes that “security is now at the forefront of enterprise architecture and design.” “Everything else is built on top of it or around it.”
Not including security early in the design phase of an enterprise architecture is a serious mistake as systems, applications, and data could potentially be compromised, warns Bruce Young, who leads the cybersecurity management graduate program at Harrisburg University of Science and Technology. “Cyber threats are constantly growing, and successful cyberattacks on organizations happen daily, so security must be built into the enterprise architecture process starting from the design stage.”
Basic security considerations should take place during the design and planning phase, as well as testing and validation before final signing, says Everett, who recommends a security-by-design approach to developing an enterprise architecture. “Security by Design mandates prioritization of design based on business risks, values, impacts of breaches, and vulnerabilities.”
7. Aiming for perfection
Most talented people, including those in IT and business, want to build something perfect. While perfection may be an impressive goal, it is not a particularly good pursuit when developing an enterprise architecture, especially when creating future proofing architectures or building on a large scale.
“This is certainly important, but over-rotation of it leads to a plethora of problems, primarily from a variety of over-architecture and over-engineering,” explains Laura Thompson, vice president of engineering at cloud computing service provider Fastly.
Thompson warns that building the perfect structure for the organization that management would like to have within five years, will greatly increase complexity and cost. “It delays deadlines, makes systems build slower and more prone to error and outages, and increases costs.”
Thompson suggests aiming only for good geometry – not perfect. “The perfect system does not exist,” she says. Reaching an 80% solution, short term, front load value for the enterprise. “You can and should iterate the improvements,” Thompson adds.