EA Styles 2: Services

In my last post I put forward the idea that the way an EA operation goes about its business might differ according to the sort of decision-making structures that are routinely used in an organisation.

I need to apologise for the length of that post and the occasional shorthand that crept in whilst I attempted to condense a large amount of information into something blog-sized: I totally fail at plain English!

In an attempt to rectify that somewhat, in this (also quite long) post I’d like to show how this theory might actually deliver some value. To do this I will leverage a post by Gartner’s Bruce Robertson where he describes an EA effort as a set of services that it provides to a business. To summarise Bruce’s post somewhat, these services are:

  • EA creation (development of organisational and architectural models to help unify strategic and IT planning)
  • EA consulting (where an EA adds value to a project by helping it align itself with strategy and future trends)
  • EA compliance (where a project is assessed for its fit with the organisation’s future direction, strategy, infrastructure and referred or accepted)
  • EA communication (where EAs insert themselves into the conversations that happen around the organisation, educate, inform, listen and adapt)
  • EA research (looking at new trends, new technology, industry analysis etc)

To illustrate how the concept of an EA style might be applied in the real world, let’s consider 2 extreme examples: a small owner-managed retail outlet and a medium-sized public sector organisation (oooh, like a council maybe).

Firstly lets look at how strategy is formed in these two organisations. In the small business, the owner will make all the decisions. She is an entrepreneur with a vision that caused her to start the business: she knows what she wants (but might change her mind if she gets new information): objectives will be in terms of sales and business growth. In the council, on the other hand, strategic direction is broadly set by politicians who are elected every 4 years: there is a hierarchical structure: central government makes statutory demands: audit and transparency are required.

The former, then, is an entrepreneurial business and demands an entrepreneurial style. The EA (probably in this case either the owner herself or an external consultant) needs to plug in to the vision and realise it quickly: management information from POS systems, staffing levels and training, marketing research processes are all needed.

  • EA models will be simple and amount to a description of the various processes required
  • EA consulting will be about challenging the owner’s vision, acting as a “critical friend”
  • EA compliance will be about ensuring that new initiatives (like diversifying product range or opening another outlet) are consistent with the vision
  • EA communication will be about networking with other entrepreneurs to see if synergies can be created, marketing the business informally and educating the entrepreneur about the risks she might be getting exposed to
  • EA research will involve looking at trends in the sector to see if anything is coming up that might change or disrupt the business model or create new opportunities.

All these processes will happen informally, sometimes all at once.  There will be few reports written, diagrams drawn, or software tools used.

The public sector organisation, by contrast, is fundamentally political. Direction is set by elected politicians and this creates a cultural background that the organisation has to work with. Political fashions change: one ruling party might be focussed on making investments for particular social or economic outcomes, while another might be more focussed on shrinking the organisation scope and cutting costs.

In this kind of organisation, a team will not survive if it doesn’t manage its stakeholders. A brilliant team that doesn’t do what the most powerful people want is doomed – regardless of how brilliant it is or how hard it works. So the EA team need to gain traction by identifying the most powerful stakeholders and finding out (sometimes indirectly) what their priorities are and finding ways to deliver them:

  • EA models will be just detailed enough to describe the area of stakeholder concern
  • EA consulting will challenge projects to deliver the top priorities
  • EA compliance will focus on rooting out those projects that work against the main stakeholder priorities
  • EA communication will be the biggest part of the job, trying to understand the currents of influence that run through the organisation so that the team can flow with them
  • EA research will look at new ways these priorities can be delivered

Although these are very different types of organisations, with different approaches, in both cases the EA team acts as a facilitator for the usual strategy formation process.

Sometimes, though, we might want to change that. But that’s another topic.


2 Responses to EA Styles 2: Services

  1. Pingback: EA styles 3: transforming the strategic paradigm « A Blog by Devon Enterprise Architects

  2. Pingback: Virtualising Enterprise Architecture for Sustainability « A Blog by Devon Enterprise Architects

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