Enterprise architecture is for entrepreneurs, too

Enterprise architecture is for entrepreneurs, too

Summary: Small companies need enterprise architecture; they can't afford to throw money away on failed systems


Mike Kavis asks an intriguing question: "Is enterprise architecture only for big companies?"

Small companies can't afford to throw money away on the wrong systems

One's first thought would be yes -- it would seem that a larger organization would have a greater need for EA, since there are likely to be many systems, applications, and user groups to contend with, all under one roof. A small company, on the other hand, may be more homogeneous, with only one ERP system, one type of database, one platform, and so on. Plus, a large organization has lots of time and resources -- including human resources -- that can be devoted to EA planning and governance activities.

EA may be even more critical to small and medium-size companies than their larger counterparts. But there is a misconception that only big companies need EA. Mike reports that he is part of a startup with fewer than 20 employees, and yes, they are talking EA. He says Brenda Michelsen captured the misconceptions about EA perfectly in a within-140-character tweet: "Many equate EA w/jumbo frameworks & rigid governance, rather than set of values & practices for capability delivery."

So, forget the heavy-handed frameworks, and look at what EA is really about:

"Enterprise Architecture is a complete expression of the enterprise; a master plan which 'acts as a collaboration force' between aspects of business planning such as goals, visions, strategies and governance principles; aspects of business operations such as business terms, organization structures, processes and data; aspects of automation such as information systems and databases; and the enabling technological infrastructure of the business such as computers, operating systems and networks (source: IFEAD – Institute for Enterprise Architecture Developments)"

There's nothing in this definition that specifies large organizations. If anything, smaller companies may need a master plan to guide ongoing technology projects more than a large organization that can afford to waste money on shelfware or underutilized systems.

Mike observes that EA is effective at helping a small, entrepreneurial organization meet goals that may include business architecture, business roadmaps, and portfolio management that prioritizes what gets worked on and when.

Topic: CXO

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.


Log in or register to join the discussion
  • Agree

    EA is needed in small to mid size business maybe even more so than larger organizations. It doesn't take a lot of technology folks to be very prolific. In fact the pace and output in small to mid size business can tend to be faster/larger than the larger organizations.

    The real challenge is managing or reacting to that pace while still trying to maintain an effective EA practice. Architects usually serve multiple roles in these companies which sometimes conflict with the EA role. It's a difficult tight rope to walk.

  • RE: Enterprise architecture is for entrepreneurs, too

    I'm totally in agreement with the articles intention. I've been using EA on enterprises ranging within 135.000 stakeholders and 15.000 employees and I've used it on our own firms (15 employees and an estimated market of 4.000 customers) enterprises. Especially we had big success with using EA techniques and approaches when we laid out our plans to establish the Nordic TOGAF market. Knowing which parts are essential to get the answers you need is a tough one and comes as usual from experience. If you have less of experience on EA then get a senior to come in and coach you through the first enterprise will help you get to the core.

    Remember it is always pace that kills good intentions never distance.