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Lean Enterprise Architecture Management (EAM) as the backbone of digital transformation

Posted by Ruth Reinicke
In the second of our series of blog posts on lean EAM, we will be looking at how Enterprise Architecture can form the backbone of a company's digitization efforts. Since John Zachman published his ontological framework in 1987, many companies have seen central Enterprise Architecture teams evangelizing and pushing into the direction of Business-IT alignment. Almost 30 years later, the discipline EAM has evolved, standardization has been applied, e.g. TOGAF or Archimate, but in most companies, EAM has either failed completely or is reduced to a minor part, e.g. to IT architecture only. Effectively speaking, it plays in no way a critical role in advancing the mentioned transformation capabilities.

The challenge: Overcoming the EA ivory tower.

EAM failing to play a critical role is alarming to both company leaders and EA practitioners. On the one hand, the demand for transparency and business-IT alignment is ever-growing. Without knowing its data, its applications or its business capabilities, how should any organization meet the introduced challenges of continuous transformation, which are critical for survival. On the other hand, how can EA practitioners overcome the reputation of being ivory tower theoreticians that have no impact at all on the business?

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From Keeper of the Grail to Vanguard EA.

Successful practitioners understand that it is time for a change of mindset. Gartner coined the notion of a Vanguard EA to distinguish him from the classical Enterprise Architect. His attention needs to shift from IT-specific legacy tasks towards providing the necessary collaboration facility. Only then, he can help companies to establish the common direction they need, and to build a modern IT for the digital age.

The ideal nature of the modern Vanguard EA varies from company to company. However, successful companies make sure he is not hidden in the IT department but has his place close to the CEO’s office. That can imply to change the setting of an existing, IT-focussed EA team and move it closer to the business, or to create a new function.
Digital Transformation: A Case for Lean Enterprise Architecture Management

Ingredients of a modern, lean EAM

This changed mindset forms the base of a modern, lean EAM. In contrast to approaches failed previously, it is shaped by the following core properties:

EAM for everyone instead of building complex models.

The digital core competencies of a company are inherently distributed. A central EA team must fail if they want to bear the brunt of the work all by themselves. As a consequence, EA must be made accessible for everyone in the company, in a way that you do not need a Ph.D. to understand a complex meta model.

Doing things instead of fearing failure.

EAs have for a long time established the reputation of being governance-oriented gatekeepers. That simply does not go with an area where experimentation, courage to allow failure and short time-to-market are core ingredients for organizational success. Particularly the example of slow IT and fast IT proves that EAs can be facilitators of this culture, even when dealing with legacy systems.

EAM as communication vehicle rather than as font of all wisdom.

What EAM can learn from knowledge management is that its main goal is not to answer questions, but to connect people. If people know who to ask about a certain topic, it is easy for them to connect all the dots themselves.

Why is a modern, lean EAM indispensable for modern IT-driven companies? The cases above all shared the importance of transparency and collaboration. Without transparencies, companies are wandering around in the dark instead of advancing their business. Only when companies manage to foster collaboration and create a shared knowledge platform, the distributed expert can achieve the digital excellence the company requires.

We will be exploring the low-hanging fruits on the way to digital excellence in the next blog posts to come. If you would like to experience lean EAM in action, why not request your own FREE LEANIX TRIAL FOR 30 DAYS?