Agile Enterprise Architecture: moving on the speed lane towards orientation

Von Alexander Rudolf
15. April 2020

Alignment in Enterprise IT Management and getting results fast. A conflict?

The complexity of enterprise IT landscapes has been increasing exponentially since the 1990s at the latest with the advent of service-oriented architectures (SOA). One discipline that can help to provide guidelines and orientation for making decisions regarding the IT systems is Enterprise Architecture Management, or EAM for short. Generally known are the large IT development plans in the office corridors of IT management departments.

EAM has gained in popularity especially among large corporations - the desire for ever more detailed overviews and cost savings through rigorous business-IT alignment has grown in equal measure.

In traditional EAM, the growing complexity of IT landscapes has led to extensive EA analyses upstream of IT projects, sometimes accounting for up to 20 percent of the actual project working time - and the trend seems to be rising.

These extensive planning and preparation phases conflict with another trend we see in the market: the acceleration and iteration in product development, software development and thus IT projects. We see that our customers feel the pressure to react more quickly to changes in the market and to accelerate the time-to-market for IT projects as well.

However, quite often IT guidelines or defaults are no longer organized centrally or matter of decicion-making from the top. Especially companies in the midst of agile transformation are looking for solutions to grant freedom for decition-making to teams, while maintaining overview and requiring a modest level of standardization in IT topics.

To the EA roadmap in three weeks

Challenged by the conflicting demands of speed and alignment, MaibornWolff has developed a concept that strives for a balance between these conflicting requirements. The goal in the words of Stefan Bente et. al. is "Just enough architecture" (cf. Bente et al., Collaborative Enterprise Architecture, 2012).

The result is the MaibornWolff SpeedBebauung: Bebauung is a German termin roughly comparable to Enterprise Architecture, more on the "building" side of architecture. In only three weeks we can create a guidelines for first orientation! After successful implementation, our customers work with a clear roadmap. Depending on the flight level of the analysis, the process can be incorporated into the project portfolio recommendation, a to-do list or an initial project backlog.

Figure 1: Overview SpeedBuilding

An important step on the roadmap is for example the Process Big Picture: The goals of this artifact are:

  • Create a common understanding among all stakeholders for the technical scope under consideration.
  • It serves as a basis for the derivation of business functions or business capabilities (which in turn serve to map the system map).
  • In the first week, the roles, business objects and systems involved are identified,
  • as well as possible needstopics for action in the business processes.

Figure 2: Process Big Picture

Another artifact is the system location in the Function Map or the Business Capability Map. It helps to identify pressing topics in the IT landscape such as these:

  • For which business functions do we currently have no IT support?
  • Which IT systems fulfill the same functions in parallel? Can we save costs through consolidation?
  • Which IT systems are already at the end of their product life cycle?
  • Which IT systems cover a wide range of functions and may be difficult to maintain or have unclear operational responsibilities ?

With system location, all stakeholders - from development teams to management - can see the answers to these questions at a glance.

Figure 3: System location (anonymous representation)

Granted: SpeedBebauung is more than a customary EA analysis done in a shorter amount of time. Detailed analyses that lead to make-or-buy analyses, product selections, TCO analyses or the modelling of technological blueprints require a different approach. SpeedBebauung helps identify exactly these actional needs in the IT landscape, classifies them and records them for clarification.

The advantage over a classic, detailed "planning-up-front" analysis? SpeedBebaaung can cope with topics to remain completely unclear at an early stage of product development or a project by following up on these points in a later sprint. Thus, SpeedBebauung is an approach fit to embed into an agile project environment.

SpeedBebauung can be helpful

  • as a starting point at the beginning of a digitalization initiative (enterprise level), or
  • as a point of orientation in an ongoing project.

In a typical project, we find an agreement with our customers the the type of results that will help most. We will then start with these.

Figure 4: SpeedBebauung in an agile project context

To facilitate this, we meet every week with the most important stakeholders from business and IT departments in power workshops: This ensures that knowledgeable individuals and stakeholders alike are on board at any time!

SpeedBebauung: Enterprise Architecture agile style

Our customers look actively for orientation to lead their digitalization projects to success! We observe two opposing tendencies: speed and agility conflict with the desire for an organization-wide overview. Classical EA as a discipline for "keeping track of things" reaches its limits in agile contexts, as it often requires too much lead time and at the same time leaves little room for fuzziness or the not-yet-decided. Thus, classic EA is hardly suitable for agile organizations. This is where SpeedBebauung is looking for a compromise: With fast, iterative approaches, we rescue the overview from the EA world into the agile sphere - and thus create the basis for alignment with high team autonomy. You can find more about this in this video of my colleague Matthias Ostermaier.