In a 2016 blog for The Open Group, we described what really happens when IT is run like a business based upon our recent work at SKF, where we work as Enterprise Architects and IT Strategists. We explained how we became confident to transform the way IT worked with the business to provide value, and what lessons we are learning during our transformation journey. Enterprise Architecture (EA) has been instrumental in that journey, and in this article, we provide some valuable lessons that we have learned on our journey to build an Enterprise Architecture Management (EAM) function to support our digital transformation, and how we used EAM to become and remain relevant during digital disruption.
Ron Tolido, Vice President, Global CTO, Capgemini, was interviewed in 2016 for The Open Group blog and described how Enterprise Architects “Know Nothing”, i.e. they must manage architecture even when they are uncertain what the right architecture may be for a specific challenge, by focusing on delivery capabilities and processes and not just technology. In short, managing uncertainty is a necessity. Despite all the turbulence created by digital disruption, we believe that EA is mandatory for becoming a pioneer of innovation and a critical enabler of business vision. The main driver of this is that business reality is changing, and therefore IT needs to change. And EA practices need to reflect this change as well.
Organizations that support Business Architecture as an integral part of EA have a significantly higher ability to execute on their corporate strategy because they have a clear understanding of the strategy and its impact on business and IT – and therefore have guidance to drive delivery. Enterprise Architects that deliver the highest business value and outcomes to their organization are those that focus on understanding the impact of major trends and opportunities on their business ecosystem, not just their own business. SKF IT uses Business and Enterprise Architecture to gain business insight and increase the relevance of IT.
Historically, architecture at SKF has been viewed – not unlike most IT organizations – as being technical and mostly associated with application and infrastructure-related orders and management. This has changed over time as more solutions were required which had clear direction on configuration to meet stated business requirements, based on specific domains such as a module of the SAP ERP. It gradually became more apparent that a holistic approach was required to face challenges of digital disruption.
Instead of concentrating on individual technologies and application services (which, in a world of constantly emerging technologies, is easily done) we need to have a much more structured approach to align IT to the corporate strategy. Our experience here is that this benefits planning (which is more accurate when the business understands what to expect), business alignment and expectation setting (for a better reception of the solutions) and easier communication as the benefits are clearly traceable and understood.
This would require investment in the architecture teams to take them beyond their individual focus areas to look at how to carry out architectural design and documentation at an overall landscape level. This is also what TOGAF® framework promotes as the common standard in architecture practices, to provide a baseline against which all practitioner roles and responsibilities could be defined.
We have asked ourselves the question, ‘how do we get the proper business insights and how do we ensure these are adopted throughout IT?’ We have found that the adoption of a Value Chain approach fits our needs very well. This allows us to focus on the entire width of the IT Operating Model and not merely focus on specific frameworks for specific problems. Recently the advocacy for taking a Value Chain approach has been strong within the architecture and the wider IT communities and such an approach undoubtedly can deliver benefits over and above some traditional approaches to IT delivery.
Our experience shows, however, that an efficient IT Operating Model takes in a lot more than merely IT Value Chain descriptions and therefore for the Architecture Management to be relevant to the business, a broader and more inclusive strategy and approach is required. This is where we started to look beyond TOGAF, a standard of The Open Group.
Within our current practises, we enable alignment of the business strategy with the Application & Technical Architecture. One of the principal objectives for any engagement is to ensure that the delivery of the application solution meets the intended business transformation objectives and the business case. Taking a service-centric approach proves to be essential for relevance. This area has been widely developed over the course of past five years, and is understandably not that structured in the TOGAF framework. Our approach was to use the TOGAF standard as the baseline framework, and integrate the business strategy activities with the application design using various techniques from the Business Architecture practice, including Capability Models such as the IBM Component Business Model (CBM) and Target Operating Model (TOM), and Process Models such as the Business Process Management (BPM), to name the most significant ones. The challenge here was to integrate everything into one holistic approach.
We have an Architecture Development Method (ADM) that defines the SKF approach to building solution roadmaps and solutions, and a Group Enterprise Architecture Repository (GEAR) which builds up based on the services requested by the business. We wanted to capitalize on the recent development in Business Architecture and chose to replace the TOGAF® ADM with one that would be a bit more purpose built. In doing so, we understood the importance of the Application Strategy in ensuring that the appropriate applications and technologies that align the business requirement are defined in the context of good architectural disciplines, considering the Current Mode of Operations (CMO), Intermediate Mode of Operations (IMO) and Future Mode of Operations (FMO). Our holistic approach to architecture is therefore closely aligned to the ambitions of the business. This allows us to focus on the specific requirements of the business whilst maintaining a high-level overview.
Overall, a structured approach supports better decision making. Our approach allows us to assess which elements of the differing perspectives within the organization need to be taken into consideration and to what extent, and how we can tie them together to ensure everything we do within IT is related to the business strategy. In short, we operate in a pertinent manner for our organization’s benefit. By having such a view, we can ask stakeholders the right questions; these in turn create the use cases upon which our delivery is engineered and therefore defines the artefacts needed for our inherently relevant services solutions.
At SKF we have recognized that the world we live in is being disrupted and therefore in IT we need to follow suit. But like Ron Tolido mentions, we cannot just enforce our views on the organization or keep on doing what we’ve been doing. EA is still very much relevant, if we can be part of the transformation. We need to assume the key role in creating a structured approach that makes it easy for practitioners to deliver value. There is no value in non-relatable architecture methods and in having architects spending their time figuring out the best use of complex non-relatable architecture frameworks. Value is when all requirements are brought together into a holistic fulfillment/delivery approach. In doing so we can help structure the IT Operating Model and ensure IT value delivery for the future, and in turn ensure the role of Enterprise Architecture becomes even more relevant than it already is.
In conclusion therefore, the key points to note for Enterprise Architecture becoming and remaining relevant for business are:
- Take a service-centric, not technology-centric, approach to building your Architecture Delivery connecting your Architecture Method straight to your IT Value Proposition and let that lead the IT Operating Model
- Bring order to the methods and frameworks chaos by focusing on the key stakeholders and their needs, building a holistic architecture strategy, approach, and services which are fully structured and aligned with the business’ needs
- Maintain an Architecture Repository based on services requested, driving the tool implementation through the Architecture, and not the other way around