In July 2022, MEGA International released a report on the State of Enterprise Architecture, showing the results of an international survey conducted on behalf of MEGA by the Enterprise Strategy Group. EAPJ caught up with Paul Estrach, Product Marketing Director at MEGA, to discuss the report and it’s findings.
EAPJ: You mention that one of the most common challenges is the lack of alignment between business needs and IT priorities. Given that IT is there to provide technical capabilities for the business, how do you think this gap has occurred, and more importantly, what can be done about it?
MEGA: The lack of alignment is mainly due to a lack of communication because business teams don’t have confidence in IT teams. IT teams are not seen as quick solution providers but as people bringing restrictions, such as complex and heavy processes which lead to longer projects that are time-consuming and expensive.
The second issue is that business teams must be hyper flexible, because they must follow the frequent evolutions of the organization’s strategy. IT teams don’t have the same timeline because of lack of flexibility and agility, so they can’t keep up.
One of the solutions to overcome these problems and realign business and IT teams is to improve communication and collaboration between the two, especially by ensuring that the evolution of business needs is clearly documented via different models describing the strategy, business capabilities, processes, and customer journeys for better transparency. These elements must be shared with the architects in a single repository. The architects will then be able to link these elements to the IT assets (applications supporting business capabilities, processes and customer journeys, projects addressing strategic objectives, technologies, infrastructure, etc.) and ensure the alignment between business and IT. The implementation of an enterprise architecture tool that supports these activities can facilitate and make this process more reliable. The implementation of an agile approach for the development of IT solutions is also a real lever to improve the alignment between business needs and IT responses.
EAPJ: With so much variation in business models across industries and organizations, what do you feel are some of the core things an EA Practice can do that might be universally applicable in all organizations?
MEGA: Even if the business models differ across industries and organizations, enterprise architecture activities are still applicable. The business capabilities may be different, but the goal remains to identify the capabilities needed by the organization to achieve its objectives. Once the capabilities have been identified, the resulting requirements must be listed, and the resources and services must be sized accordingly.
EAPJ: In the report, you talk about the issues with project execution in terms of both time and cost. What do you think is the direct correlation between the EA Practice and those issues, and how do you think EA can improve those outcomes?
MEGA: EA projects are often perceived as projects that are too long and require too much effort. Indeed, many enterprise architects used to have an academic approach, which aims at documenting the entire IT landscape. Such an approach is time consuming and has no end. To reduce the effort, cost, and duration of these activities, there are two levers:
Follow a business outcome driven approach. Focus on the most relevant and valuable use cases that will allow quick results and avoid the tunnel effect.
Seek automation for tasks with little value (data collection and entry, modeling of diagrams, etc.) to save time and be able to focus on tasks with high value (study and impact analysis, definition of IS transformation roadmap, design of new architectures, etc.)
EAPJ: With such high levels of engagement between EA and the majority of business units, what do you think are the main issues that are preventing this engagement from converting to positive outcomes in project execution or business change?
MEGA: Nowadays, IT is essential for an organization. The IT department supports all departments and functions of the enterprise by providing solutions answering business needs. However, EA teams are not sized to provide the same level of support to all business teams. We haven’t seen an explosion in the size of EA teams in recent years but in some large organizations, EA delegates are joining the business teams giving EA a seat at the table and a voice beyond just IT.
EAPJ: Many organizations struggle with implementing effective Data Management and Data Governance practices. How do you think EA Teams can help improve these outcomes?
MEGA: EA activities include data architecture, which is data modeling to document and rationalize the data used in the organization.
EA can also provide teams in charge of data governance practices with a quicker understanding of the context in which data is used in the organization. For example, in which process the data is used (link between data and business process), or which applications manage this same data.
EA also knows the criticality and vulnerability of applications, which facilitates the work of data governance – to be able to justify the capture of data, understand which business need it supports, its criticality level, and the potential risk involved.
EAPJ: You show a clear trend toward increased investment in EA tools, but what are your thoughts on improving the knowledge and skills of practitioners to get the most out of these investments?
MEGA: According to the survey, the most necessary skills for an enterprise architect are IT modeling and mapping (80%), knowledge of the company’s businesses (79%), ahead of technical certifications (75%).
EAPJ: With strong support for the value of modeling in EA, what is your take on the adoption of these models outside of the EA Practice, such as by business units directly?
MEGA: Some of the models used by EA are well adopted by business teams because they describe the organization’s business through concepts they know well and whose value they perceive:
- Process modeling is a way to understand how products and services are delivered by the organization
- Customer journey maps, to instantly visualize customer satisfaction at each key stage of product or service delivery by the organization and to understand what needs to be improved (processes, organization, information system, etc.)
EAPJ: You highlight the importance of delivering better data to business teams to improve the perception of value and trust in EA. What sorts of data are business teams particularly interested in sourcing from their EA partners?
MEGA: Business teams may be interested in obtaining more visibility on the investments that support their business (short, medium, or long-term changes to the existing information system). EA can provide key performance indicators (KPIs) that allow them to see that the investments are well aligned with the business objectives.
Other interesting KPIs for reconciling business and IT teams concern project delivery. For example, determining the average delivery time of a new solution compared to what was initially planned.
EAPJ: How can EA practices be changed to better support the gathering and use of data, particularly with tools like AI for decision support and automation?
MEGA: Today, the search for automation is key to an efficient EA practice. Automation of low value tasks such as data collection and identifying the IT assets used in the organization (applications, technologies, etc.). AI and machine learning can help categorize this data, and thus automatically identify the business capabilities they support.
One of the key objectives of EA is to define the IS transformation strategy (which applications should evolve, and which should disappear). The elaboration of this strategy can seem complex, as there are so many factors to take into consideration (business value, technical efficiency, data compliance, sustainability, and security). The use of algorithms to process this large amount of information will significantly improve the productivity of enterprise architects.
Paul Estrach is Product Marketing Director at MEGA International and has over 15 years of experience in Enterprise Architecture. Prior to his role with MEGA, Paul worked with a number of large organizations on their transformation projects, from process optimization to the evolution of their information systems, first as consultant then as Services Director for over 7 years.