How to Set Up Enterprise Architecture for Your Organisation

Architecture essays

Image made by the author

Senior IT leaders of companies (and, on happy occasions, business heads) regularly ask me how to set up enterprise architecture in their organisations. Sometimes they enquire informally, and at other times, through proposal requests. Having established enterprise architecture for several companies, I am sharing my method for anyone interested in learning or using it.

To teach anything, telling is okay, showing is excellent, and doing is best. I can only tell here, so look for chances to see or do EA.

(Please note that enterprise architecture is not only about information technology. You can have both business enterprise architects and IT EAs. Ideally, you should. When the business EAs’ plans involve IT, they can work with IT EAs to realise them through well-designed architecture and technology. Although this article is on setting up IT EA, much of the approach is relevant to setting up a business EA practice if you’re seeking that too.)

The assumed organisation and context

I’ll assume that your enterprise is of medium size (500–10,000 employees) to large size (> 10,000 employees), with a ‘thin’ IT division that manages several IT partners supplying infrastructure, software, applications, services, and operations.

I’ll assume your IT department does not build IT in-house. It has IT managers for each business domain responsible for projects and service quality in their respective domains. They report to the CIO/CTO.

(Of course, your company may have some or all IT built internally. But I prefer something else for my clients. If you make aeroplanes, make aeroplanes. If you supply water, supply water. Leave IT to IT companies. The specialisation of individuals and companies produces higher quality and efficiency. But yes, the EA setup and working would be essentially the same for you.)

The sponsor

Who are you, the primary audience for this primer? The CIO, CTO, CEO, or someone senior who has the backing of at least one of them.

You understand enterprise architecture, its benefits, and its techniques. (This article focuses on setting it up effectively and efficiently in your organisation rather than its details.)

You believe an EA practice will meet the company’s challenges by bridging business and IT and want to establish an internal EA team to lead and oversee this. You are the EA sponsor.

Here are the five steps to get it right and get it going.

Step 0—Appoint a senior EA co-lead

I am calling this Step 0 and not 1 to emphasise the importance of Step 1 below. But it must start somewhere, and hence Step 0.

Who is the best person to define, guide, work out the details, and execute the setup of EA? An experienced enterprise architect who has done it before. Let’s assume you’ve found the right person. But you, the sponsor, must work closely with the lead EA (LEA) in many ways until it is a going concern.

Take the steps below together, with the LEA working on the nitty gritty and you aligning the organisation and associates.

Step 1 — Get business buy-in for EA

Image by the author from Canva Pro

Enterprise architecture is not idealistic theoretical dreaming and fanciful planning by self-satisfied technology wonks. It is a tool that empowers the business to make money or save money (or create value and reduce expenses in not-for-profit organisations). Is it indispensable for success? I believe so. Getting the owners and executive leadership to understand this goes a long way in using it well and getting its best.

It is ideal to get the CEO to be the patron for enterprise architecture (unless you are the CEO, which is excellent, as you would be both EA patron and sponsor). In addition, garner the informed and active support of the chairman, board, president, and the rest of the CxOs, and you’ll give EA the best chance of establishing itself and thriving.

Get technology partners’ and business partners’ buy-in

The next critical step is to make IT and business partners, especially the largest ones, a part of the enterprise architecture process. EA can only deliver through a holistic and common understanding of business opportunities and issues and a shared vision of the best way to address them.

Step 2 — Set up the EA triangle of people, method, and artefacts

The picture below shows the three aspects of EA’s execution capability.

Image made by the author

A. People

One day architectural design may be automated. Until then, it’s all about having the right people. Mobilise two sets of people for the enterprise architecture engine:

  1. The core EA team — For a large organisation, the ideal team comprises a lead EA, EA, application architect, information architect, integration architect, and infrastructure architect. Smaller companies could have a lead EA, application architect, integration architect, and infrastructure architect. First, select an LEA experienced with EA establishment, delivery and governance. Then select the rest with the LEA.
  2. The supporting cast — The stakeholders in EA’s deliverables comprise the second set. They will be either (1) those that require strategic and tactical IT plans or (2) those that own projects and changes. The former will be the senior business leaders with regular jobs who will also participate in the Architecture Review Board and annual EA planning. The latter will be business domain IT managers responsible for IT service quality who will also participate in the Design Authority.

B. Method

The LEA will tailor the EA Method for your organisation and educate business leaders, IT managers, partners, delivery managers and team leaders on it.

1. The EA strategy & planning method — its essentials are business drivers/needs/wants, current vs target architecture/technology, gap analysis, transition plan, cost and time estimation, and business case.

2. The EA project solution method — its essentials are EA standards/policies/guidelines, documented reviews of business requirements, high-level architecture solutions, viability checking, and operations feedback.

Beyond the above summary, the EA method will not be elaborated here. If you need a refresher, please refer to the following book, article, and other sources.

C. Artefacts

Ensure with the LEA that the EA practice delivers these two types of EA artefacts:

1. Artefacts that are part of the EA Method

These have been briefly listed in the Method section above and will not be elaborated on here.

2. EA Tools

The maturity of an EA practice does not depend on the use of sophisticated and specialised EA Tools (e.g., Orbus, Sparx, erwin, etc.). These tools take away a lot of time and thinking in learning, using and managing them, which is not worth it. EA maturity comes from method and thought.

It is sufficient and optimum to use the following for EA work.

  • Excel for all data, fundamental analysis, Litmus tests, RoI calculations, etc.
  • or Visio for all architectural drawings
  • MS Word for all documentation (and pdfs for circulation)
  • PowerPoint for all presentations
  • A workflow tool to enter all planning and delivery tasks
  • A centralised document repository with a well-thought-out folder hierarchy. It will be the master for all EA documents, and copies will be used in the workflow tool as required. Here is a suggested folder arrangement:
Image made by the author

See this article for more on skills, artefacts, and methods for architecture.

Step 3 — Set up governance

You must apply the Enterprise Architecture Method wholly and consistently. In other words, you need to govern it.

In the EA context, governance applies to Transition Planning and Change Management.

The respective EA governance bodies are the Architecture Review Board (ARB) and Design Authority (DA). For more, see the article at the end of section 2 above.

You can control only what you catch. So, both aspects need channelisation followed by oversight and management. For this

  1. Set up a workflow portal for business transition planning—This is where all business and IT leaders will put their needs of the next 1 to 3 years. For example, the CMO could put, “I need a micro-segmented campaigning system in 6 months”. These will go through the EA method of 2B above, with each milestone artefact reviewed by the LEA and ARB.
  2. Set up a workflow portal for change management — All approved IT projects, and changes will be entered here. They will be objectively triaged to determine which ones have a high enough architectural impact and need quality checks by the Design Authority. These will go through the EA method of 2B above, with each milestone artefact reviewed by the DA. No change will be allowed into production that does not follow this process.

See the governance part of this article for more on this area.

Step 4 — Roll it out

Once you have the business buy-in and patronage, partners enfolded, EA organisation and governance portals, then getting EA going needs education and discipline.

Do the education in three parts, with appropriate briefing decks.

  1. Brief senior leadership — Make the patron and senior leadership aware of the overall EA Framework, bodies, governance and gating process. Prepare them for escalations by various types of stakeholders. They need to stay strong and support the EA process. This should be done jointly by the EA sponsor and LEA.
  2. Brief IT and business partners — Elaborate on the EA organisation, method, artefacts, and governance bodies and the involvement of the partners’ architects, delivery managers, and team leads. The LEA will do this.
  3. Brief delivery managers and team leaders — Elaborate on the EA organisation, method, artefacts, and governance bodies. An area of focus should be the gating process and bodies such as ARB and Design Authority through which the EA ensures solution quality. The LEA will do this.

As for discipline, it is a more nebulous thing. It comes from individual nature, social milieu, and organisational DNA. The patron, sponsor, chief architect and other leaders in the enterprise should motivate, inspire and encourage to drive discipline. It is with discipline that EA will succeed, like other systematic capabilities. So keep an eye on discipline and take sensible steps to maintain it adequately.

Kick it off

1. Kick-off meeting or mailer

Hold an EA process kick-off town hall meeting or send a mailer for business and IT leaders, the EA team, business and IT partners, delivery managers and team leaders announcing that the new EA process will cover all in-flight and new initiatives. Ask them to cascade it to their people. Provide the documentation of the education sessions above, plus other relevant artefacts. Supply your and the LEA’s contact information and scheduled times in which anyone can approach you for clarifications and issues.

2. Start monitoring

Monitor the planning and delivery management workflow portals regularly to ensure all new ideas and initiatives start flowing through the EA process.

End note

Only a few organisations have a full-fledged and mature EA practice. Statistics are hard to come by, but it could be about 20% of American, European and ANZ companies and less than 5% of companies in developing economies.

Yet, EA is not a luxury but a necessity as business and technology change faster and become more complex. If you can increment the number of organisations benefiting from a mature EA practice, please do so.

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