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How do you practice Enterprise Architecture?

By March 29, 2024EA Practice Advisor

I’m getting cranky with all the LinkedIn posts that are leading new Enterprise Architects down the wrong path, making it harder for us to be successful at what we do. They want you to believe that Enterprise Architecture is a Technology thing. So, I am writing this article and welcome my learned partners and colleagues to add their stories and experiences of what makes an Enterprise Architecture great for business.

When my pal, Craig Martin (affectionately known as the Sweater Man), introduced me to this model way back in 2012, it made so much sense to use it as a guide to help folks understand where they were on their maturity curve as practising Enterprise Architects.  I even developed a simple maturity assessment tool from the great foundations of a good Enterprise Architect, Nick Malik, to show folks where their practice is and what needs to be achieved to reach the next maturity level.  If you want a free copy of the excel tool, send me an email [email protected].

Hurry up and get to the model Christine….so here it is.  I love this model because of its simplicity.  What is says is that as you mature in your practice as an Enterprise Architect, you will deliver greater value to the business. 

All those folks out there spruiking the benefits of business and IT strategy alignment are encouraging you to deliver limited value in your organisation.  The best you will ever do is provide ‘useful’ business outcomes.  These people believe that we are here to provide a technology service and that’s it! This is a classic approach that may have worked 10 to 15 years ago, but we need to do much more than provide ‘useful’ outcomes.  Useful outcomes can be delivered by an outsourced IT service partner.  You don’t need Enterprise Architects in-house for this.

If you and your practice are not playing in the ‘trusted’ and ‘partner’ space, you need to do something about getting there quickly.  Here is how you can do it:

  1. Educate yourself first.  Learn why Business Architecture skills are so important for every type of architect.  No one expects you to DO business architecture work if you aren’t a Business Architect, but you are expected to know what it is and how to work with Business Architects and the models they use to provide business understanding and insights.
  2. Educate the people around you.  Are you doing an enterprise architecture practice maturity assessment every year?  I’m not talking about the TOGAF EA Maturity assessment, but an actual capability maturity assessment.  How well are your services aligned to the needs of the business and are your customers happy with the services you offer?  If your customers don’t know what you do, or understand it, you are most likely still playing in the ‘useful’ maturity space.
  3. Build your practice to include business architecture models in decision-making.  When you first start with the business and strategy perspective you have a better chance of delivering ‘trusted’ architecture services.  It shows the business that you KNOW how they operate and what’s important and what’s not.  You will show them ways to set priorities based on strategic need. 
  4. You are the business.  My business partner, Bard Papegaaij and I shake our heads when we hear folks in enterprise architecture and IT departments refer to ‘the business’ when they are actually part of the business too!  We need to start believing that we are also the business if we want to move into the ‘partner’ level of maturity.  You will have a seat at the table, and show them ways to innovate and optimise the operating model.  Every person at the table has a right to be there as a member of the business.
  5. Make your practice human centred.  Technology centric practices stay stuck in the ‘useful’ space.  Start conversations with a reflection of what business problem needs to be addressed today. Focus solutions on solving business problems in novel ways.  The methods and techniques you use must involve inclusive human centred design practices. Always seek to collaborate and remember you are the expert of nothing if you think you are the expert of everything!

Please share your thoughts on what we can collectively do to help us mature the practice of Enterprise Architecture.  I am always looking for people to work with who are passionate about supporting those that want to learn how to practice Enterprise Architecture the right way.  So if this is you, reach out to me if you want to record a podcast, short video or even teach a course!

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