Benefits of Enterprise Architecture for Organizations
By John C. Martin CIO, Georgia Department of Natural Resources
In today’s business models, technology is shifting to an often un-integrated network of smaller, more agile applications that are often hosted in the cloud (SaaS). With the business units now less reliant on massive enterprise solutions like ERP, it’s tempting to think that the hard work of creating a sustainable enterprise architecture (EA) is also behind us. So, as many companies make the move to cloud computing they anticipate leaving behind a lot of the headaches of EA. But is that how things will really play out?
For even as we push business processes into the cloud, none of it can standalone. Proper Enterprise Architecture discipline is still needed to make sure that everything works together to support business vision and future needs. You see, no matter how great the appli-structure is, or where it is housed, someone will still need to define and manage the relationships and dependencies between business vision, technologies and business initiatives.
In today’s’ business models, technology is shifting to an often un-integrated network of smaller, more agile applications that are often hosted in the cloud (SaaS)
Many customers have paid the price for the absence of an EA “due diligence” at the price of project failure or missed expectations.
Stephen Mann, analyst at Ovum, says “SaaS is now becoming a mainstream part of the corporate IT mix but using it for the right reasons, in the right places and in the right way within an organization is crucial”. That is the very definition of Enterprise Architecture.
Cloud computing does not replace “real” enterprise architecture. Contrary to what the salesmen say to your business units, it isn’t a simple, easily deployed solution, when you look at the enterprise in its totality! Explain to them it is ana technology that holds the promise of providing more effective and elastic computing platforms, but explain to them to not believe all of the selling hype. Remember, salesmen are usually more interested in selling the product than the actual long-term impact on your organization.
New technologies are great and everyone loves to think they will solve our problems. However, using new technology just because it is touted as the latest and greatest is usually a costly mistake. Technology selection should be driven not by its “coolness factor”, but rather by business mission and its integration into the current underlying appli-structure. Moving some enterprise applications to the cloud may in fact, make some current technology issues go away, but badly architected solutions may only make your failure more, because the problem often is not the technology but people and/or process.
So when your business partners come to you with the latest cloud solution that will make their life easier, refer them to another verse in Joni’s song: “I’ve looked at clouds from both sides now, from up and down and still somehow, it’s cloud’s illusions I recall, I really don’t know clouds at all”. Our business units don’t know clouds at all; they are simply looking for the best solution to solve their issues. It is our job as IT leaders to remind them that the best way to accomplish their business mission is to use Enterprise Architecture methodologies to ensure the proper alignment of business vision with IT solutions, and one of those MAY certainly be the cloud!
If you don’t currently have Enterprise Architecture in your organization, or it has not been designed to accommodate extreme complexity and change, then I would start working fast to create your EA processes to accommodate the coming storm of an exponential growth in complexity and rate of change, because Cloud Computing in its current form is not likely to be the last technology innovation you are going to have to address.
You see, much like Joni Mitchell, I’ve also looked a clouds from both sides now, both chasing the new shiny thing in disregard to an encompassing EA strategy, and going into it with eyes wide open with an understanding of “future business vision” and stitching the “as-is” and “to-be” technology stacks together into an executable Enterprise Architecture Strategy. Therefore, my conclusion is we need Enterprise Architecture now more than ever!
“Seven thousand years of known history of humankind establishes that the only known strategy for accommodating extreme complexity and extreme change is… ARCHITECTURE!!