Wednesday, July 18, 2012

The Journey from Visibility to Governance to Standardization to Reuse

Firms need to have a single picture to guide their efforts, to build a “foundation for execution” as described in Enterprise Architecture as Strategy[1].  It is not enough to have a single picture of the vision, mission and strategies of the firm.  Firms will need to decide what business processes need to be standardized and what data need to be integrated.  There is no right answer, but not having a common picture will mean that different parts of the firm will be building to their own visions.

However, I noticed through my interviews with CIOs that not many companies had this single picture.  In fact, on probing further, some of them were not able to provide a high-level, organization-wide view of their organizations’ processes.  As such, I postulated that organizations must mature through two stages before they can get to the standardization (and integration) stage. 

Even star war troopers need mirrors!
photo credit: Kalexanderson
Firstly, they need to firstly establish an organization-wide, regularly updated view of the current situation in their organizations.  This is akin to individuals looking into the mirror to decide what to change about their appearances.  Similarly, organizations need visibility into their current state before they can decide what to standardize and what to leave alone.  This is not a trivial exercise, especially in large organizations.  Creating a current view from scratch can take months; keeping the view updated as the organization changes is an even bigger challenge.

Can you tell if something is out of line?
photo credit: chekobero
Second, organizations also need to have strong governance processes in place, so that changes to existing processes and data are channeled through a common approval body.  How can any organization standardize unless all changes and new initiatives are checked against standardization requirements?  In many of the organizations I studied that had mature EA practices, the organizations had strong governance in place.  The Enterprise Architecture team was involved in approving new business initiatives, to ensure that the initiatives are not deviating from the organization’s standardization and integration vision.  Without such a governance framework in place, standardization is just talk that has no teeth to be realized.  It is possible for organizations to have strong governance first before having visibility.  However, as mentioned above, organizations will need to establish visibility before they can move into the standardization stage.

Re-use seems to be a long way off for many organizations.  Or is it?  Maybe a iterative approach with fast and short iterations will work?  I will be keen to hear from your experience of standardization and reuse.

[1] Enterprise Architecture as Strategy by Jeanne W. Ross, Peter Weill and David C. Robertson    

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