Why Produce an Enterprise Architecture Model ?

It is tempting to say that if the head of an organization doesn’t see the need for an EA model, then it is probably a simple enough organization not to need one. However, the truth is that most enterprises started out small and simple, where one person could genuinely understand the whole thing, but grew to the point where no single person could describe the whole. The same can be said of the corresponding IT systems that support the enterprise. The problem is that the people who
run these enterprises are loathe to admit (or often don’t even realise) that the level of complexity has grown beyond their ability to comprehend. This culture of denial is behind many of the management disasters of the information age – assumptions based on poor understanding of the key dependencies, weaknesses and bottlenecks in an organization have resulted in poor decision making. In the last few years, there has been a spate of corporate mergers of very large companies. The merged organizations each had their own cultures, processes, terminology and technology. Understanding how best to rationalise these organizations is only possible using models at an enterprise level – hence the recent upsurge in interest in EA. The benefits of EA are not always easy to measure – anyone with experience of change projects in large organizations can see that an EA approach is valuable, but it is hard to put a monetary figure on the benefits. Even just concentrating on tangible projects such as IT delivery, it is hard to put a figure on the benefits of EA. There are many opinions on why large IT projects tend to fail so spectacularly, but running through all of them are some key threads:

• Gaps in understanding – the business community are unable to elucidate their requirements to the technology providers, and the technology providers are unable to describe the impact of technology changes in such a way that the business community can understand the risk.
• Weakness of verbal requirements – written specifications are open to interpretation and contribute to gaps in understanding
• Lack of project cohesion – it is very difficult to coordinate a large development team to work towards a singular goal when their allotted tasks are specialised and isolated

It is clear that a well executed EA approach helps to overcome all these problems, but this still a “good feeling” rather than anything that can be measured. The only way to measure the benefits is to compare two almost identical projects, one which used an EA approach and one which did not.