Enterprise architecture is the strategic context of IT. It is the layer above the IT environment that makes IT strategically manageable. In other words, enterprise architecture provides a strategic IT blueprint so that your IT systems are designed and evolved in a well-mannered way, avoiding a proliferation of different technologies or an IT hairball that after a while becomes unmanageable.
An enterprise architecture strategic IT blueprint can be similar to a city plan. With a city plan the plan designates what can be built within certain areas of the city - industrial installations, sports fields, building complexes and so forth. This can be used to ensure that the city delivers on the city strategy, planning the appropriate level of recreation, industrial, commercial, residential facilities. Similarly the strategic IT blueprint provides a plan for a complex IT environment. Organisations need to think about enterprise architecture once their environment becomes to complex to manage in an ad hoc manner and they need to have a structure and process to manage that complexity
Enterprise architecture can have many important benefits for your organisation. Here are some key benefits that you can use to sell the need for enterprise architecture to your business.Enterprise architecture:
1. Supports the delivery of the business strategy
Business strategy on paper is not effective. It is only effective if it is implemented by the business. Enterprise architecture provides a fundamental bridge between business strategy and IT. As a strategic IT blueprint enterprise architecture provides a roadmap for the implementation of IT that will help achieve the business strategy.2. Increases the speed of business change
Today successful organisations and businesses achieve competitive advantage by the speed of their business cycles. Take for example Apple and the speed at which they deliver new versions of their products to maintain competitive advantage. However, often traditional IT environments, laden with legacy systems, are not designed to facilitate quick business change and IT departments regularly get blamed for the slow delivery of technology required for business change to happen. Enterprise architecture enables organisations to define a structure in order to manage the required rate of change and to gear up IT to deliver more rapidly.3. Increased productivity and cost savings
In many organisations, different departments and silos design their own systems, inconsistently perform similar processes, and utilise various technologies from different vendors. This creates an inefficient and costly mess, spread across the organisation. With an agreed strategic IT blueprint fragmented approaches and duplicated processes can be aligned in an integrated environment and technologies and vendors can be standardised. This creates a simpler, more efficient, environment. The business can become more agile, business capabilities can be shared across the organisation, and the workforce can be more flexible working across standardised technologies and processes throughout the organisation. IT departments are also more efficient, managing a standardised and well understood environment and supporting a smaller set of technologies and vendor relationships. In short enterprise architecture delivers improved business and IT productivity and cost savings to the organisation.4. Increased return on IT investment
With enterprise architecture organisations have a better understanding of the impact of investment on their environment and can make better decisions to improve the return on IT investment. For example, IT security can be applied once consistently throughout the enterprise, rather than performed individually and sub-optimally for each business unit. Organisations have a better understanding of their strategic IT context and greater visibility to make better, higher return, IT investment decisions.5. Enables managed innovation within the organisation
While innovation is positive it needs to be right for the organisation. Innovation can often come from left field and if not managed can become a distraction from real business critical activities. Enterprise architecture provides a framework for innovation to occur within the organisation. It enables innovation that is right for the organisation within the strategic IT context, that is timed appropriately and that does not come at the expense of other business critical needs.6. Helps organisations manage and exploit their critical business information
In today's information society organisations cannot achieve their purpose without managing information. It is IT's role to help organisations effectively manage and exploit information. Enterprise architecture for all of the reasons described above helps organisations manage and exploit their business information, leading to greater success in the business achieving its purpose.
Equinox IT is New Zealand's leading IT consultancy. We deliver a range of enterprise architecture services including enterprise architecture and TOGAF certification training courses