There are many enterprise architecture challenges businesses need to consider before implementing the practice. What are the main ones and how do you solve them?
► Find out how to get started with Enterprise Architecture now!
When enterprise architecture (EA) is established properly, it can bring great value to an organization. The value and benefits of EA include improved processes, increased efficiency, and better decision-making.
But if EA is so beneficial, why don’t more organizations invest in it? That’s because EA can be a difficult discipline. Especially when the starting point is not clear.
Enterprise architecture challenges arise when there is a lack of guidance in implementation and governance. Plus, EA requires continuous innovation to ensure the EA program stays on track.
One of the biggest challenges when it comes to enterprise architecture is its implementation. Knowing where to start can be difficult. And with large organizations, global and regional business units need to be considered.
Enterprise architecture planning starts very early on; selecting the right tool, establishing best practices, and creating the company-wide vision.
The following enterprise architecture implementation challenges are common during the early stages. However, there are ways to avoid them.
One of the first major challenges architects have to overcome is selling the value of EA to all stakeholders. While some of them may not understand its value, enterprise architecture buy-in is extremely important. After all, the project hinges on company-wide acceptance and support.
All relevant stakeholders need to commit to the ongoing development of EA. They must share the same long-term vision to understand its value over time.
Enterprise architecture can help organizations save money, improve efficiency and increase innovation — but this is fairly vague. Many CEOs and high-level stakeholders will need some kind of measurable outcome to consider the project worthwhile.
A business case that outlines the expected measurable business benefits will help architects sell the value of EA to the organization.
Clear communication is also key to getting stakeholders on board. EA is a complex topic – it involves full knowledge of tech and business processes that not all stakeholders will have. Thus, explaining the value of EA in accessible words will benefit the buy-in.
For enterprise architecture to be successful it needs vision. EA is not something that will benefit a business overnight. It’s a commitment to agile principles and ongoing innovation.
Tensions can often arise between the short-term needs of the business and the long-term strategy required for enterprise architecture. Vision is vital.
EA projects quickly lose momentum when there is an absence of leadership. Key stakeholders need to be all-in on EA and the value it provides. This starts when it’s built into the foundation of an organization's technological and business infrastructure.
Without a commitment to the long-term goals of EA, the project will likely be a failure.
Solving this issue goes back to business buy-in. Building a strong business case for EA will convince key stakeholders that it’s worth the effort. Clear KPIs, governance processes, and a roadmap through the design, build, and operation phases of EA will make business leaders see the vision.
Enterprise architecture relies on specific tools. These tools support the transformation from traditional legacy IT and business processes to modern, agile, and cloud-based alternatives.
Tools support EA right from the early analysis and design stages. Therefore, it’s essential to choose the right ones during the implementation phase.
Problems can arise further down the road if the tools have limitations or are not purpose-built. This can waste a lot of time and money.
Invest in specialized enterprise architecture tools that are easy to keep up-to-date and collaborative, plus make it simple to build actionable reports.
Because of the distributed access, workflows will be optimized and stakeholders will be able to drive their own analyses. Your data quality will go up thanks to quality assurance mechanisms and will give your organization a much better basis for decision-making.
Nextgen enterprise architecture tools allow businesses to become cloud-native with optimal speed and maximum control.
The data-driven nature of modern EA tools supports quick and seamless transformations. This allows better focus on IT business capabilities and customer journeys.
📚 Related: What to Look for in a Modern EA Tool
Once the enterprise architecture implementation challenges have been considered, the next hurdle is governance. EA governance is required to turn the architectural requirements of an enterprise into an easy-to-follow set of policies, processes, procedures, and standards. It is an integral part of deploying and maintaining business strategy.
Enterprise architecture governance challenges occur when establishing what these standards should look like.
Successful governance encompasses all the fundamental aspects of managing a business. This can be difficult to establish if there is not a clear vision, firm leadership, and comprehensive knowledge of organizational structure.
Avoid spending too much time planning and modeling in too much detail. Sometimes enterprise architects are accused of living in an “Ivory Tower”. This means they are completely removed from the real world and business needs.
Make sure your architecture is aligned with the realities of your organization’s IT, business, and budget.
Do not try to model everything and for every eventuality. You cannot anticipate all the disruptive events that will influence your business.
Who would have predicted the invention of the iPhone and the influence it has had on media consumption and corporate IT?
By simplifying your EA models and focusing on business capabilities, you remain flexible enough to react to unexpected events and trends.
When it comes to creating your EA inventory using enterprise architecture tools, you need to ask yourself which problem you are going to solve. Starting from there, you can identify the data you will need to obtain and maintain.
For example, let’s say you want to identify which applications to invest in or divest according to their technical and functional suitability. In order to succeed, you will need to collect information on the application and rate its technical and functional fit.
Do not collect data without a good reason. The more detail you have in your inventory, the harder it will be to assure its quality.
There is always a trade-off: if you want a deep and detailed model, you must compromise on how up-to-date your data is and how much effort it takes to maintain it.
Think carefully about your use cases – which reports do you really need? Start with one or two important use cases and collect the necessary information. This could be application rationalization; you can always consider adding more use cases later, as your EA practice becomes better established.
When creating your business capability maps, go for breadth rather than depth. An analysis of LeanIX workspaces shows that companies typically use 7-10 capabilities on the highest level. And 70% have only one or two levels of business capabilities.
Following a lightweight approach has the clear advantage of reducing complexity and focusing on what really matters.
It is possible to be too far removed from the realities of your organization. Here is one example of an EA zooming out too much and losing sight of the important details during an application rationalization project:
At a global logistics company, a parcel tracking application was supposed to be replaced by a web-based system in order to save costs. After the plan and budget were set, the Italian country head pointed out that the computers used by drivers were incapable of running such a system.
Neither getting too caught up in complex technical detail nor spending all your time on high-level strategic models is useful.
Enterprise architecture problems can be avoided by doing “just enough” EA “just in time” (Gartner).
Do not try to make enterprise architecture everything to everyone: focus on a small group of clear objectives, measures, and track success.
Enterprise architecture has its challenges, but they are not impossible to overcome with strategic EA planning, strong leadership, and the right tools.
By addressing these EA challenges early on, organizations can focus on innovation and the value EA can bring over time. Therefore, developing and adapting the practice as it (and the business) evolves.
Free White Paper
Uncover the value of a successful EA practice, and how that translates to your organization.
What are the challenges of implementing an enterprise security architecture?
What are the challenges of enterprise architecture?
What are the limitations of enterprise architecture?