Previous Employment…

I like to take a little nugget of wisdom from everywhere I’ve worked, store it, mull it over and see how best to use it for future endeavors.  With that being said, one nugget contained an organization role that was tied to both IT and the Business.  It was titled Business Information Officer (BIO).  This position reported to the CIO and COO for a particular Line of Business (e.g. Sales, Marketing, HR, etc..).  The reporting ratio was 50 / 50.

The Role…

The BIO was responsible for working with  the business to develop or understand their strategy and critical needs, build and manage an initiative portfolio and work with an IT account manager assigned to their line of business to develop  the business cases, SOWs, requirements, costs, and so on.

The Positives…

Direct link to both the business and IT, providing them the ablility to greatly influence how IT supported a given business area (what they worked on, when and why).  Ultimately, linking strategy to execution through business and technology insight.  They had a seat at the “business table”.   This seat allowed the BIO to work along side the business to develop the strategy, understand their pain points and establish a  trusted relationship.  Largely in part because they were looked at like colleagues or someone who shared the same pain and desires.

The Negatives…

Role was not embedded with the Enterprise Architecture  discipline, ideas or framework knowledge.  Therefore, instead of contributing to the Enterprise Architecture practice they became another person to work with or through to be able to provide the methods the business needs to truly link strategy to execution.  I know I’ve mentioned strategy to execution a few times and what I mean by that is… company strategy and the business and IT execution network that enables it, e.g.  people, capabilities, processes, information business systems and infrastructure. I am not inferring that efforts were not there to try and bridge the gap between business and IT, but the foundation and discipline that Enterprise Architecture brings was not.

Outcomes

  • No direct linkage of line of business objectives to corporate objectives.
  • High-level business needs translated to business cases that were almost impossible for the IT organization to plan against (what do they truly need?  How many resources?)
  • Success measured on project completion, not delivery of core capability and/or process enhancements that met LoB ojective x and corporate objective y.
  • Existing architecture artifacts were not leveraged to assist in the development of a LoB’s portfolio.
  • No concept of master planning, e.g. delivery of  long-term roadmap,  highlighting the business enablement and transition over a given period of time from which IT and other cross-domain groups could leverage and align with to deliver business strategy.

My take…

This would be the ideal position for enterprise architecture or those practicing architecture at the cross-domain level.  Solution and technical architects should still reside within IT to further drive execution towards the realization of strategy, but EA needs to be in a position to leverage and influence both business and IT.  The Chief Architect would be linked to the CIO and COO of the company and the Enterprise Architects reporting under him to a given business domain or line of business head.  They work with the business to deliver master plans that layout a 2-3 year roadmap that defines the transformation of a given business unit with a key focus on linkage to strategy, priorities and the company business model.  Along with driving the business enablement roadmap they work within the confines of the IT strategy, principles and standards as guided by them through their link to IT and solution planning / architecture.  They, as needed, employ solution architects to deliver solution strategies and plans within the confines of the master plan.  From their a portfolio for a given year+n is generated leveraging the 3 steps prior.  This also provides for a sustainable platform for EA’s to work together on cross-business domain issues at the strategic and tactical level.  Imagine working through these normal, every day  issues at a strategic level!!

To close…

The following questions and statements are still all to prevalent:

  • How will we bring value?
  • How will we measure EA?
  • Nothing seems to have changed, just an influx of more shelf-ware, why did we establish this group again?
  • They are just another Ivory Tower
  • Here comes more governance

I always like to learn from past experiences, constantly rethink how things should be done and I believe positioning EA in a position that’s derived from the concept of bridging the gap could go along way in addressing several of the questions, negative statements and  issues the EA discipline faces today.  Over time perhaps Enteprise Architecture completely moves into the business, but for now this would be a good first step to enhancing our ability to drive strategy and showcase its execution through architecture.

Alternate thought…

Or perhaps instead of vying for Enterprise Architects to be in this position, perhaps we need to find those that already are and embed the EA role within.  Not just an information sharing ordeal, but our discipline and subsequent responsibilities must be intrinsic to their role.

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