In the world of business and IT, the objective is continuous improvement. However, there can be no improvement without setting benchmarks. Within the realm of enterprise architecture (EA), a target architecture represents reaching a desired future state.
Enterprise architecture is a discipline that is devoted to the alignment of business and IT. It offers a holistic overview of the enterprise where every business capability is mapped alongside its underlying technologies to lead the strategic decision-making behind business transformation.
Where enterprise architecture is a practice, target architecture is a concept. EA sits at the heart of strategy and execution. A target architecture sets the framework for planning, assigning resources, and streamlining activities to reach a desired future state. In essence, the target architecture is the blueprint for both enterprise architects and project managers to follow.
Target architectures are created to harmonize future business requirements with best-fit technology to support operational goals. To do so, enterprise architects must consider every artifact across the IT landscape, including business capabilities, components, applications, user groups, data objects, and more. Then, they need to roadmap the impact various changes will make during a transformation project.
The motivations behind creating a target architecture vary, but they apply to every organization and industry. Any company looking to improve its internal capabilities and processes, customer relationships, or operating model, will benefit from a clearly defined target architecture. Since all businesses are pursuing growth by way of technology, there will always be a goal to achieve.
To grow in today’s digital age means to transform. Three of the most common business transformation projects that serve as motivation for creating a target architecture are:
1. Cloud migration
Many of today’s leading modern enterprises are in the process of shifting to a cloud-native world or have already completed doing so. The advantages are clear: superior agility, scalability, efficiency, and a reduction in overhead costs. However, moving to the cloud also involves making changes to the IT architecture.
Companies need the talent and tools in place to take advantage of this speed and scalability, while at the same time complying with data privacy regulations and maintaining governance. By not taking a proactive approach, these organizations will become unattractive to developers who feel like they will be bogged down with restrictions.
2. ERP rollout
Companies running on legacy enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems miss out on critical features to streamline operational efficiencies and lack the proper customer support needed to thrive. But rolling out a new ERP is no walk in the park. It’s a daunting and complex task that requires careful planning and oversight from stakeholders across the business to outline a target architecture.
Leveraging enterprise architecture is critical for teams to conduct a rapid assessment of legacy ERP architecture, identify opportunities, and tackle the associated challenges. By understanding the key phases of your ERP migration, and how EA plays into each step, stakeholders can reduce risk, save time and money, and accelerate innovation.
3. Mergers and acquisitions
From blending disparate workforces to onboarding applications and integrating technologies, the M&A process is one of the most common yet multifaceted of all business transformations. In a digital context, time and precision are essential components of the post-merger integration process guided by a jointly defined target architecture.
Outside of business transformation activities, companies may be motivated to create a target architecture to save costs and reduce risks through application rationalization. Though a target architecture can’t be defined until a thorough analysis of existing applications occurs, this is another driver for doing so.
Before enterprise architects can create a target architecture, they must have a thorough understanding of their application inventory and baseline architecture. The baseline architecture represents the “as-is” current state of the IT landscape.
Companies with a mature enterprise architecture practice will have their IT information clearly documented and accessible using a tool like the LeanIX Enterprise Architecture Management (EAM) Platform. Unfortunately, for many organizations, critical information is disorganized and scattered across various divisions, file types, and data silos. EAs at these companies must manually collect data by interviewing relevant stakeholders throughout the organization. Then they must compile and verify that information to capture the baseline architecture, which is likely to change before a target architecture can even be created.
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The anchor of any target architecture is its applications. After gathering the information to understand the “as-is” state, it’s time to decide the fate of current applications. A useful method to do so is Gartner’s TIME Model, which helps organizations decide whether to tolerate (T), invest in (I), migrate (M), or eliminate (E) the applications hosted in its baseline architecture.
Criteria will vary based on the organization and its needs, but here are our recommendations for best practices:
The application has high technical quality, there is not a lot of time or money invested in support, but it provides a certain amount of value. Since the value is not negligible, is used, and doesn't cost a lot to maintain, the application should be left alone and considered for future improvement.
The application is stable, doesn't require much support, and is architected well. The business uses it and there is an attributable and recognizable value. These are the applications worth investing in, yielding even better returns or seeing a further reduction in costs.
This option is for applications that are low quality but provide high value to the business. Several decisions can be made when pursuing application migration:
These applications provide no business value, are unused or used minimally, or are based on obsolete software.
After motivations are understood, desired business outcomes are clear, and the baseline architecture is set, it’s time to map out and define the target architecture. This can be accomplished with three simple steps: Plan, Decide, and Execute.
Get started by establishing the overall business objective(s) and ensuring all stakeholders are on board and moving in the same direction. From there, it’s time to break down the objective(s) into tangible IT initiative(s), i.e., migrating specific applications and processes to the cloud.
This information will allow enterprise architects to forecast high-level changes to the IT infrastructure and get a fundamental grasp of the impacts that will need to be addressed. Of note, it’s critical to put timelines in place so that teams are accountable and activities follow the plan as was agreed.
Once the plan is in motion, it’s time to further segment IT initiative(s) into executable projects and epics. If the internal resources don’t exist to meet the deadlines laid out in the planning phase, organizations may bring on consultants to help see their project through.
At this point, enterprise architects can begin visualizing how short-term initiatives align with long-term business objectives. They can do so by creating a transformation roadmap that takes into account more granular architectural changes. Doing so will empower stakeholders to forecast how future changes to applications and IT components will affect business capabilities.
Information on these impacts will help shape key decisions in prioritizing actions toward achieving the target architecture.
Transformation activities are underway. EAs should monitor the progress of evolving business objectives while at the same time measuring stages of completion on individual projects. Regular communication amongst team members is critical to keep items moving forward and on track with the plan.
All architectural changes should be actively documented and reflected in the IT repository to maintain data quality. Although speed is essential, security and proper execution are even more imperative. Ensure projects are broken out into manageable chunks so that nothing breaks.
Transitioning from a baseline to a target architecture cannot happen within a bubble. Chances are that changes to the IT infrastructure will impact multiple business capabilities and the teams that support them.
Engage and involve these stakeholders early on to help communicate the reasons behind changes and the value that they will bring to the organization. Reassure users that decisions are based on data and be transparent about providing the facts to back conversation points.
To develop a target architecture in a secure and efficient manner, the LeanIX Business Transformation Management (BTM) module is designed to elevate business and IT teams’ collaborative potential when executing transformation strategies together.
As an add-on to LeanIX EAM, LeanIX BTM creates a strategic link between business objectives and transformation initiatives to document and visualize how IT changes affect operational processes and capabilities.
The tool provides enterprise architects and CIOs an efficient platform to develop plans and reach their desired target architecture collaboratively. In addition to roadmap planning, BTM allows stakeholders to visualize the impact of hypothetical scenarios before implementing plans. Plotting these details enable teams to maximize the value of their activities, reduce risks, and share easy-to-understand reports and visuals with business leaders. See how it works.
In today’s world, the symbiotic relationship between business and technology means that any change can have far-reaching consequences. And, as mentioned previously, organizations must transform to grow.
It’s what makes a target architecture so critical for any company with future aspirations. This North Star helps to guide strategic IT and business decisions and achieve desired outcomes.
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