Top 10 Things an EA Should Be Thinking About (Part 1)

So it seems like that time of the year again where different analysts, experts and bloggers are coming out with Top 10 trends lists.  While some might view the yearly generic crop of “Top 10” lists as trite, superficial, or simply  repeating things everyone already knows; we thought we would take a stab at a list that would be different than other Top Ten EA trends lists.  We typically see the same technology-oriented trends peppered across these lists, with little or no business context around them.  Quite frankly, it is the business that matters the most, and that is what we would like to see EA’s thinking about… not just now, but all the time.

Our list represents the Top Ten (or so) things that we think true Enterprise Architects should be thinking about.  As always, this represents our thinking that Enterprise Architects should be focused on the whole of the enterprise, business and IT perspectives, long term business strategy and transformation, and the impact that has on the work that needs to be done beyond the here and now.  Not the kinds of things that solution architects, data architects, application architects, infrastructure architects, or security architects should be thinking about – What should ENTERPRISE architects be thinking about?

Not listed in order of importance – they are all important.  Also, we would like to tell you that a typical IT-centric Enterprise Architect may not be able to answer these questions or think about them as completely as they should – in which case, they need to seek out the appropriate business and/or IT professionals to discuss these topics with from the perspective of their enterprise.

  1. Are our business’s customers the type of customers we can reach through social media?  If so, how does that change our marketing and product/service development operations?  Social media gets a lot of attention, and in certain circumstances, can be a valuable and powerful employee relations, marketing, customer service and product delivery tool.  But social media is not for everyone.  EAs need to think about and discuss the impact that these tools can have on employee, partner and customer interactions with people that are knowledgeable in these areas.
  2. As more and more business applications are made available via “the cloud” (which is really another way of saying externally provided over the internet for our purposes), how can that change the way we work?  The “cloud” seems to be everywhere.  I don’t want to see an EA thinking about all of the technical capabilities enabling and roadblocks constraining cloud computing – there are domain architects and engineers and vendors for that.  I want to see them thinking about how the business would change with software, infrastructure and information “virtually” available from any browser, anywhere.  And I want them discussing the financial ramifications of using externally provided services with the finance department and IT finance personnel.
  3. How can we more effectively leverage our information assets?  Is there information we have that others would pay for?  Is there information that we don’t have , that we can get from other sources?  As increasing amounts of information about customers, markets, transactions, sensor status, etc. flow into our company, I would like to see EAs having conversations with information consumers and executives about effectively analyzing that information to increase profits and/or value to our constituents?  Can we handle it, manage it, store it, protect it, etc.?  Which work processes must change or be invented to operate in the new environment? We continue to believe that information is one of the most underutilized assets of most enterprises.  This is a prime opportunity for EA to deliver value.
  4. How should we guide sourcing strategies? based on cost, commoditization, competitive advantage, etc.?   Is it in our best interest to maintain captive skills or acquire them elsewhere?  As an outcome of thinking about most business and technology related outcomes, EAs should consider the impact that new business operations, channels, technologies, etc. have on the skills and training of the enterprise’s personnel.  This provides insight into alternative sourcing strategies and the time and cost impications of each.
  5. What level of business process standardization and what level of business process integration does our business’s operating model require? More importantly, which business processes should be standardized (allowing for more leverage of the supporting business applications) and which business processes need to be integrated (allowing for more leverage of the shared information assets)?  All too often, I speak with enterprise architects who are having a hard time having a meaningful, high level discussion with business executives about how the business operates and how that relates to what the IT department can offer.  At the same time, I see information technology departments struggling with justifying the integration and data management technologies that the business seems to need.  The discussion about the enterprise’s operating model is one that I find executives understand and find meaningful in the way it relates business operations and IT investment decision making.

So there is the first half of our Top 10 Things EAs should be thinking about …  We will finish our list in next month’s newsletter (click here for details on one of them).

Let us know your top 10 things to think about.

1 thought on “Top 10 Things an EA Should Be Thinking About (Part 1)”

  1. Nice thoughts. Here are some additional ones –
    1. Analysis of a customer’s “social software aptitude” is a must. There was some Harvard Business School research in this field in 2008 that classified customers along a spectrum from “observer” to “creator”. Understanding your customer according to some kind of scale is definitely a step we EAs must be pushing the business to consider. The temptation is often to dive right in with the crowd and assume that all our customers are going social along with the rest of the world. Maybe, maybe not.
    2. I think SaaS applications really force a change in the traditional definition of an “Application” and are challenging traditional dev shops to incorporate apps that are SaaS configurations into their development and support models. SaaS and to some extent PaaS are moving development out of “big, complex, enterprise” to “departmental, simple, fast”. In the past, this was a bad thing. I think now we are more mature, and can manage the former with the right standards and close collaboration with IT savvy business users.
    3. The most interesting thing here, IMO, is the convergence of traditional Information Management notions like MDM, Information Architecture and Information as a Service with “Social” CRM. Getting true benefit from improving the customer experience and our understanding of customers from CRM requires Social Media text analytics and a single view of the customer. Achieving these benefits is forcing organizations to realize that things like Data Governance, Data Architecture, MDM and having a robust enterprise data model are really important.

    Cheers. Nice thinking.

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