Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Building the Enterprise Architecture Habit

Habitudes, one of my favorite books talking about leadership habits and attitudes

(This is the fourth part of a five part series on "Five Hurdles in Implementing EA")

I was at a conference last year and one presentation showcased wonderful Enterprise Architecture (EA) work an organization did.  The organization mapped out their high level strategies, linked it to their business functions, and identified linkages between various parts of their organization.  They had created useful documentations for understanding the organization, and how different parts were inter-related.  Obviously the organization invested tremendous effort in creating this information.  “How do you keep this information updated?”, an audience asked.  There was a pause; seemingly the question hit the nail on its head.  The presenter then honestly shared that keeping the architecture updated was one of the greatest challenges his organization faced in their EA work.

EA documents like that in the example provide visibility into an organization.  As such, they would not be as useful when its information is outdated.  Why is it difficult for organizations to keep their enterprise architecture documents updated?

To begin with organizations are constantly changing.  Updating documentations create additional work, and is not what many people will naturally do.  Moreover, the beneficiary of the information is often not the information provider himself, so there are some imbalances in incentives.  This problem is further enlarged in large organizations as there are more information.  As such, without processes to keep EA documents updated, EA documents will become less and less accurate as time goes by.  Organizations need to put into their governance controls such that major changes in the organization are updated into EA documents in a timely fashion.  Organizations might also put in reward systems to incentivize employees to contribute information.

Another type of problem is EA consultancy projects that produce stacks of documents and drawings that nobody use.  This as a related problem, in that it is in part caused by the out-of-date nature of some EA documents.  What is different in this problem is the “not invented here” syndrome: The user of the information are often not the ones who produced them.  Likely, it is external consultants who created those stacks of paper.  Consequently, the information is not used because people do not trust it, are not familiar with it or even are not aware of its existence.

The challenge for organizations is thus cultivating a habit, and putting in the necessary rewards and controls, to update and use EA information.


  1. Yeah, this is akin to the clinical documentation problem in EMR. We need to "bake in" the collection of EA data into BAU activities. Simple carrots and sticks may not work. Remember the effect of a numbers game on WITS and suggestion schemes?

  2. Ya, clinical documentation is similar. We can think of it as the "architecture" of the patient.

    And "bake in" is really a good way to think about how closely tied EA activities should be with Business As Usual activities. Another good picture for this is "weave in".

    Agree that simple carrots and sticks may not work. Will need to reach into deeper motivation factors of people, for example getting their buy-in that these activities will help them in their work.