The value of architecture

 The value of Enterprise Architecture is zero, if you have an enterprise that exists in a complete static environment, without any need for improvement. The value of architecture is also minimal if the size of your business is small. If you have one customer, one product and one employee is it rather simple to adapt to changes in your environment. With more customers, more products and larger organisation, changes to your organisation are more complex.

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First of all, Enterprise Architecture is a vehicle for risk mitigation. Projects fail, and the larger the project, the less the chance that it succeeds. Large programs are even worse. 

Why is it so?

Standish Group make annual surveys of project results and their findings are not very impressive. Worst of all, there have been no major improvements during the last twenty years. 

If we look at the reason behind failures, we can identify two major factors behind the figures that count for nearly 90% of the reasons. They are the solution as such and how the project is carried out. Lack of proper project and program management does count for approximately 50% of the failures. The next 40% of failures are due to the lack of architecture. Finally 10% are classified as others, i.e. Murphy.

The other finding is that small projects have a near fifty per-cent risk to fail. Large program does only succeed in 2% of the cases if we look at the statistics. 

Larger program add complexity due to mutual dependencies between projects.  The dependencies exist both between different applications and between processes and people. 

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More applications and larger organisation add complexity to the transformation. Not to forget the strong relationship between the organisation, processes, information and applications. 

If we don’t handle this relationship will we have a huge gap between the different business units and the IT organisation.

If we have a more positive attitude, Enterprise Architecture helps the organisation to improve how they work and add value to their customers. Improved processes and IT-systems that simplify manual work need a strong foundation.

Enabling new business, as information, communication or entertainment services, to the enterprise has a big impact on requirements on the solutions, thus also on the architecture. Collaboration with external parties is another example that call for flexible solutions.

You will have a strong business case for Enterprise Architecture if your organisation stands before a major transformation, due to changes in the environment where the organization act.

Enterprise Architecture is tool for the management to describe the situation today, how it will look tomorrow and how we will get there in a controlled way.

A last word. In a perfect world Enterprise Architecture would be the silver bullet. But in reality, we must handle a number of shortcomings and EA is not the whole truth.

 This article was first published at The Content Economy in October 2007.