Evaluating your enterprise architecture

(Part one of a series)

Alogical and business-focused enterprise architecture (EA) can deliverexceptional business benefits and investment returns. To ensure suchresults periodic EA evaluation, conducted by an independent team,should be adopted. Independent evaluation facilitates confidentdecisions by EA management and sponsors; provide valuable input to thearchitecture team; and help the architecture succeed by addingvisibility and weight to the team’s authority.

Bydefining and enforcing logical, business-focused EA across the entireorganization, enterprises can achieve interoperability and consistencyof business processes, applications, data and technology. The benefitsinclude: better economies of scale; simplification and consistency atevery level; reduced cost and time in application development,implementation and maintenance; more efficient use of softwarelicenses; reduced skills set requirements; greater vendor leverage.

EAfacilitates company-wide optimization that can lead to annual savingsin the hundreds of millions of dollars, while truly leveraginginformation technology to improve the business.

Theenterprise architecture group is a significant expense that could meanhundreds of millions of dollars for Fortune 500 companies, and over abillion dollars for Fortune 10 firms. Added to the expense are therisks, business impacts, new skill sets, change managementconsiderations and more.

Butmore significant than these expenses and risks is the cost of not dongan EA. The funds and resources expended should generate a substantialreturn – if your EA is implemented correctly.

Toensure this, an independent team should evaluate EA work periodicallyand provide strong direction. Independent evaluation will facilitateconfident decisions by management and sponsors by highlightingsignificant issues, opportunities and risks inherent in the EA project.It will provide independent input to the architecture team, helping toimprove the architecture’s evolution. It will also help shore up thearchitecture group’s mission, provide additional support and visibilityand add weight to its authority.

What if you have no corporate architecture group or EA project in progress?

Fact is, you alwayshave an EA, even though it may be a hodge-podge. Periodic evaluationwill help you understand the strengths and weaknesses, opportunitiesand business threats inherent in your de facto architecture. Fororganizations developing a company-wide EA, an independent evaluationshould be performed at the start of the project, during development andat the start of the actual migration. Periodic evaluations should alsobe conducted – quarterly at best, or annually at a minimum.

Who should evaluate your EA?

Evaluatorsshould not be the architects themselves, as they are too involved toprovide an independent perspective. We recommend inviting architectsfrom companies within your industry and forming an appropriate team.CIOs of participating organizations can formulate reciprocal agreementsto provide approximately the same independent evaluation process forother members. This is perhaps the best way to obtain relevant,independent knowledge and experience, while minimizing conflicts ofinterest.

The next best way is to engage individual architects on a time-and-materials consulting basis.

Ourthird preference is to engage a small, specialized EA consultingcompany. But beware of new scopes of work being created througheloquent depiction of a too-bleak picture (e. g., new skillrequirements, ongoing skill provision, gatekeeper reviews, etc.)

Thelast preference is to engage a large IT services company that providesarchitecture consulting. Cautiousness should be observed, however, toensure that the company only takes over your architecture project, andnot its implementation and maintenance.

Who should review the evaluation report?

Theevaluators should first present their findings to the internalarchitecture group and allow them to comment, point-by-point. Thisdocument should then be presented to a representative group ofstakeholders – some or all of the CXOs. This report should prepare thembetter to make the necessary decisions in providing direction to thearchitecture, support and funding for the project.

(Next week: Evaluation methodologies for EA evaluation)

(KenKenjale is Chief Technology Officer of Troy, Michigan-based Syntel,Inc. and has over 30 years of diversified software services experienceacross the US, Europe, Asia and Australia. The author acknowledges thecontributions to this paper by Arnie Phatak.)

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