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7 steps to bring enterprise architecture out of the IT silo and into the light

Things moving way too fast? Harness fast-thinking teams to keep on the right track with technology, skills and vision.

The practice of enterprise architecture has long been viewed as an "IT Thing," often relegated to the IT silo. The EA-in-IT box just isn't going to work in the digital age. Enterprise architecture is needed across the business, for the business, by the business.

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Photo: HubSpot

Jack Topdjian, Dirk Klemm, and Carl Drisko, all with PwC, have some ideas on how enterprise architecture can be surfaced and transformed into a truly enterprise venture. In a recent article published in PwC's Strategy + Business, they describe steps that can be taken to bring enterprise architecture out into the light:

1. Set up a company-wide transition team. You can't keep EA locked up within the IT department, Topdjian, Klamm and Drisko state. They advise establishing a "cross-functional capabilities architecture planning team to oversee digitization." This should be led a top executive, and include senior business unit and functional leaders. The team's mandate: "link the digital design plans to business strategy and capabilities building."

2. Streamline the current system. Have the planning team go after the low-hanging fruit first -- for example, "identifying technologies and capabilities that could be decommissioned or outsourced." A company may be chocked full over overlapping legacy systems across a range of silos. A comprehensive consolidation and streamlining effort ultimately frees up money to fund digital transformation, Topdjian, Klamm and Drisko state.

3. Divide up oversight for the new capabilities. Of course, none of this is overnight work, the authors caution. Designing capabilities for an entire enterprise requires "a great deal of attention," including rethinking the enterprise's "operating model and business processes, choosing the right digital technologies, setting up training and recruiting to put people with the right skills in place, and fostering a digitally attuned culture." These are all different capabilities requiring different skill sets and communication strategies. Topdjian, Klamm and Drisko advise splitting up separate capabilities architecture planing teams to tackle and evangelize each capability.

4. Blow up the silos. No department within the organization may not have the skills or bandwidth to build new capabilities from scratch -- such as developing and embedding software into products for Internet-of-Things-style approaches. Here's where enterprise architecture earns its pay, the authors state. Instead of attempting to create a whole new functional area, the EA team can set out to recruit various people from across the enterprise -- "including including product development, marketing and sales, learning and development, and procurement" -- to contribute their expertise, skills and time.

5. Pilot new systems with an emphasis on rapid results. Rapid prototyping is everything, but you need to keep tabs on where things are going. Establish a baseline by which enterprise teams can measure progress, Topdjian, Klamm and Drisko urge. Then, adopt an agile development approach that brings together fast-moving groups from both the business and technical sides of the house.

6. Chunk the work into manageable, bite-size pieces. The authors mention how one product redesign effort was broken up "into small parts and given to separate groups of developers, who wrote their pieces of the puzzle in collaboration with willing customers. The pieces were then combined and the result tested with customers to make sure it could be integrated into their own systems."

7. Chart a new way to operate in the future, scaling up the early successes. Topdjian, Klamm and Drisko cite an example of how a truly enterprise EA team can help create a software business that serves "as a model for the entire company." Positive impacts can be seen on "the clock speed of production, the schedule of releases to the external world, and the development of more permanent collaborative cross-functional teams." All good stuff, worth repeating across the enterprise.