When you say "Enterprise Architecture," it elicits a broad range of responses from "we need that" to "we tried that and it doesn't work." CIOs, CTOs, Chief Architects and business function leaders often have a perception of EA based on past experience — good, bad or indifferent.
Regardless of your opinion of EA, the argument that I would make is that every medium to large size company needs to look at their business systems in a strategic way. That is fundamentally the goal of Enterprise Architecture — to have an architectural strategy focused on enabling your business objectives.
As the leader of Salesforce's customer-facing Enterprise Architecture team, I talk to CIOs and CTOs every day who need to make sense of their technology master plan. They need to juggle "keeping the business running" with, in some cases, fundamentally changing their core architectural foundation to meet the demands of their business functions.
At Salesforce we see a successful Enterprise Architecture (EA) approach as the following:
1) business-value led
3) minimum viable product
Business-value led means that the ultimate goal of EA is to enable your business goals and objectives. Whether that is enabling a new business model, a flexible mobility strategy or an omni-channel strategy, EA's number one goal is actually not about technology but about business results.
Pragmatic means that EA provides an executable roadmap that takes months, not years. No business has the luxury of waiting for a year or more for systems enablement. In many cases, business are already behind the curve in terms of having the systems they need to meet their business requirements. A successful EA group is able to define a "move forward" plan that pragmatically navigates the specific constraints and issues that exist in every company.
MVP or Minimum Viable Product approach means that EA should NOT be filling binders with amazing-looking artifacts. The creation of complex technical documents and diagrams is not a business value add. Being able to understand current state, agree on future state and build an execution roadmap are the components that really matter — and should be the responsibility of EA. Our approach at Salesforce is to take an MVP approach to EA and avoid analysis paralysis. The reason for this is that action and success breeds confidence.
At Salesforce we have a simple 7 step Enterprise Architecture methodology which you can see below:
As you see from our EA methodology, everything we do in EA anchors back to the business goals and objectives. This keeps EA focused on what really matters and avoids EA becoming a series of disconnected technology experiments. It keeps EA from being an ivory tower, articulating platitudes that are unattainable. The methodology we recommend keeps EA grounded in reality and focused on providing business capabilities.
We like to say that great Enterprise Architects must be a blend of technical and business knowledge. Deep business acumen and optimally experience in the operational function of sales, marketing, finance, service, etc, along with deep technical knowledge, are the skills that an EA must have. Our opinion is that it is impossible for an EA to become a trusted advisor to the business functions, if they do not know the business. Our best EAs are either a big 1/3 technical and 2/3 business OR 1/3 business and 2/3 technical. The bottom line is that EAs must have knowledge of both business and technology.
The final and most critical element to a successful EA program is governance. Without an on-going dialogue between the business and the technical teams, it is nearly impossible to have a working Enterprise Architecture. Governance helps create avenues for efficient dialogue and faster decision making. Governance also enables the implementation of standards, getting a better understanding of the business processes that need to change in conjunction with systems changes, and gets the business and technical teams working together.
In summary, a strategic view of your enterprise business systems is critical to every company's goals of being able to move faster. When done properly, EA can be the enabler of your business objectives and help increase your agility as a business.