Addressing Business/Enterprise Architecture Challenges

Jeff Scott recently posted a blog listing 14 challenges faced by business architects. They really apply to any enterprise architecture practice, and I wanted to call out and comment on a few of them.

Lack of business skills in the EA team. I commented directly on Jeff’s post on this one. I am sure there are many EA’s that have heard this statement, the problem is that it isn’t actionable. What specific skills or knowledge is missing? If you can’t get a straight answer on this, be wary of the protectionist culture that exists in many organizations. This is even expressed in another one of Jeff’s challenges, “Gatekeepers protect their business relationships.” We should all be focused on achieving the business goals, but frequently our actions are more geared toward protecting turf and climbing the corporate ladder. Someone who refuses to tell you how you can improve may be guilty of this practice, whether done with intent or simply because that’s the culture. This is why you must follow the words of another Forrester analyst, Gene Leganza, and answer the question, “What’s in it for me?” (Forrester subscription required).

An approach I like to use is to always emphasize that I’m here to help. I’m not here to be the police force and a bottleneck, I’m here to make our outcomes better. If they have people performing functions similar to enterprise architecture, but perhaps called something different, don’t turn it into a turf battle because you will lose, assuming the group is having success with it. They’re already performing the function, so unless you have a way to make that function better, there is no impetus for them to change. One thing I’ve done in those situations is to turn the conversation around and get them to start sharing their practices with other teams, and offer to be the facilitator of that communication. That can certainly play to the ego of any protectionist, but it can also be a great asset for you in demonstrating the value of the practice of architecture. Remember, it’s more important to establish the practice than it is to establish the team. Otherwise, you’re just falling into the same turf war culture that everyone else does.

Another challenge Jeff mentioned is a culture of change resistance. The scenario I described above was one where no change was needed, because the practice was being done with good results. If the results are not good, change is needed. Prior to any discussion on how to solve the problem, you have to get agreement that there is a need to change. If you get that agreement, now you can have a solid discussion. If someone doesn’t agree on the approach, ask to come up with an alternative, because you’ve already reached agreement that something needs to change.

Of the rest of the challenges, there are two others that I wanted to call out, you can review the rest on Jeff’s blog. They are: “Business units plan and work in silos” and “Tactical business focus.” These two strike at the heart of my previous post on defining the enterprise first. If the business hasn’t recognized that there are certain things that must be addressed at an enterprise level, then clearly anything with an enterprise scope will be a challenge. These are cultural issues that may be outside of EA’s ability to address, yet they are huge impediments to a successful practice. My experiences indicate that it will take someone at an executive leadership level to make this happen. They must be interacting with the directors of those silos and the common leadership above. You may be able to get some things done at a grass roots level because some individual managers may be open to shared planning, but it’s hard to turn that into systemic change without help from the top.

Thanks to Jeff for collecting these challenges, I hope others will contribute to actionable guidance that can help overcome them.

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