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5 Best Practices to Achieve Enterprise Architecture Agility

The concept of ‘agility’ has permeated almost every inch of the enterprise. It’s not hard to see why either. The promise of faster time to markets, better management of change and disruption, and leaner, more efficient operations is clearly an appealing.

Enterprise Architecture (EA) is no exception to the rule. It might have been, for a time – when EA only really concerned itself with ‘keeping the lights on’. But now that the domain has found itself aligned more closely to the center of the business EA has to be concerned with agility too.

Some Enterprise Architecture practices can struggle to really achieve agility because of various reasons. We’ve put together 5 best practices to help architecture teams deliver greater business agility and also become more agile in their own approach to EA.

Help Agile coaches align to EA goals:

Organizations typically launch Agile by bringing in external consultants to train staff on practices such as pair programming, stand ups, and Agile story point estimation.

To make Agile work with EA, some organizations require external coaches to go through an architecture roadshow to build their awareness and learn architectural best practices so that they promote and support EA’s goals.

Just Enough Enterprise Architecture, Just in Time

One of the most common barriers to agililty is doing too much. The complex nature of Enterprise Architecture can lead to some architects building many rabbit holes where too much unnecessary information is captured and modeled that work is never ‘done’. This state is known as ‘analysis paralysis,’ as it effectively slows down the process and time to market of EA business-outcomes. Architects should stay focused on delivering Just Enough EA to support business outcomes, instead of documenting every last detail of the organization.

Of course there are times when very deep EA is required, but as a general rule it is better to focus on Just Enough Enterprise Architecture. Whether through curiosity to learn more, or paranoia that something will be missed, attempting to model and analyze everything is fundamentally at odds with agility.

To help focus on Just Enough EA and avoid getting lost in the detail, architects should:

  • Separate Enterprise Architecture from Solution Architecture, understand that detail does exist where Architecture meets design
  • Use a goal based decision process, keeps a focus on what needs to be built and by when
  • Concentrate upon interfaces / relationships
  • Define the core properties to be collected and implement quality checks
  • Harvest and connect to records of source

A lean and agile approach to Enterprise Architecture allows architects and non-architects alike to access the information they need much faster too, since EA modeling and content is no longer weighed down by a lot of unneccessary detail. EA is more likely to secure investment this way, too – as stakeholders are more likely to invest when the business outcomes can be translated more clearly and quickly.

Engage and Collaborate with Business Stakeholders

Another hurdle to EA agility is approval. Architects often reach a point where they can’t continue without the approval and buy-in from business leaders. The quicker you can get your stakeholders on board, the faster you can move through the strategic planning process into execution. This efficiency is essential to the agile mantra.

The ivory tower perception of Enterprise Architecture that has traditionally plagued the discipline makes this even more of an issue. Stakeholders are more likely to be reluctant to invest (be it time, money or resources), if the business outcomes aren’t completely clear.

One way to solve this is to help stakeholders get a better understanding and view of enterprise architecture. Getting them engaged and collaborating on the applications, processes or business capabilities they are interest in via an easy-to-use EA tool is ideal. We can also borrow ideas from Just Enough Enterprise Architecture (mentioned above). Your stakeholders shouldn’t have to learn how to do Enterprise Architecture in order to provide input and see its benefits.

Organizations with a collaboratively driven tool can provide stakeholders direct links to specific assets in the architecture. This negates any learning curve stakeholders might have needed to navigate the tool itself, gets them straight to their point of interest, and saves them time.

Giving stakeholders the ability to view and contribute directly within the EA tool itself, negates the need to go back and forth with static diagrams and reports. Instead of printing out PDFs and the like (which is actually just sharing), EAs can collaborate with stakeholders in realtime allowing them to see the impact of different changes on the business and to guide investment decisions.

Rethink your architect resourcing model:

The pace of change and the level of uncertainty about final requirements in Agile projects strains limited EA resources. EA leaders struggle to allocate staff across the spectrum of projects that require architectural guidance.

As a result, EA groups must fundamentally redefine how those architects get involved to create more capacity. Some EA groups triage Agile projects to understand whether they require more or less involvement based on early indicators of risk, while others do lightweight check-ins between sprints.

Teach enterprise architects to work in a hybrid environment: Most organizations today work in a hybrid environment where some of their projects follow the waterfall methodology and others follow Agile.

EA should develop architectural artifacts that can work in a hybrid environment where architects have the flexibility to tailor recommendations based on individual project requirements.

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The concept of ‘agility’ has permeated almost every inch of the enterprise. It’s not hard to see why either. The promise of faster time to markets, better management of ...
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