Enterprise Architecture: Is it Time to Invest, or Let it Go?

Since the 1960s, enterprise architecture (EA) has been the industry standard for strategizing an organization’s IT resources and optimizing its assets. When the future looks bright, enterprise architectural planning (EAP) is one of the best models for ensuring that infrastructure is aligned in the direction of development and transformation for the continual success of a business. 

Businesses in the process of a merger or downsizing may wonder if this is really worth the expense: after all, enterprise architects aren’t paid an average salary of $140,000 for no reason. Hardware is expensive and execution is time-consuming – not to mention that EA is an enterprise-wide effort requiring teams, collaboration, and extensive planning.  

When looking to cut expense, it’s not surprising that organizations start here. But should they? 

The Role of EAP 

In 2019, there’s not much need to emphasize the importance of IT. Data centers, cloud, and virtualization are vital components for a majority of functioning businesses. But the existence of IT infrastructure within an organization does not negate the importance of EAP, and to understand why, we must begin with its purpose. 

The Common Approach to Federal Enterprise Architecture is a standard framework for federal enterprise architecture (FEA) used by government agencies and their partners. The framework outlines a Consolidated Reference Manual that is useful for understanding EA in terms of strategy and costs.  

This methodology is broken into six parts including the infrastructure reference model (IRM) which categorizes: 

  • Network standards, such as ANSI, IEEE, and ISO 
  • Core technologies for electrical, electronics, structural, and others 
  • Cloud architecture, interoperability, usage models, and portability 

When advancing the maturity their EA investment, the IRM is what businesses typically focus on. But that is just the hardware side of EA: it comes after the performance reference model (PRM) which establishes an organization’s goals and objectives, leading to key performance indicators for IT and its integration with business strategy. 

The Business Side of IT 

Just like digital strategy can no longer be siloed to applications or online services, IT cannot be siloed to a single department or service center. Information systems no longer just support but undergird every step of a business strategy and its execution. 

For this reason, the modern enterprise architect not only looks at an organization’s existing IT assets but appraises its structure, processes, data, and standards to align IT with business goals.  

This approach addresses and augments key executive considerations including: 

  • Better employee retainment 
  • Cross agency documentation and evolution 
  • Digital transformation  
  • Future readiness  
  • Improved evaluation across business information systems and technology 
  • Increased security controls 
  • Reduced inefficiency  

EAP readies an organization for technological disruption by integrating the latest innovations in business with the latest innovations in organizational structure and IT systems. For businesses today, EA means re-evaluating existing processes to determine which can be accomplished more effectively by IoT, cloud, and AI/ML apps. 

It should be clear by now that an EA investment means much more than supporting existing architecture: in an era when innovation is a key differentiation factor in the enterprise, EA has risen to the level of necessity for building a competitive advantage. 

Invest or Cut Spending? 

Healthy enterprises striving for growth within the next decade should retain their EA budget and continue to support initiatives that develop and consolidate their technological infrastructure. For organizations without an EA plan, there is good reason to seek one out now. 

According to Gartner, global IT spend will hit $3.8 Trillion by the end of this year. That represents 3.2% growth from 2018, with a 2.8% increase expected next year. Research indicates that data infrastructure, cloud services, and IoT will be large areas for expansion, and – if past trends continue – this expansion will drive growth. 

While it’s important not to conflate EA with digital transformation, the two domains are symbiotic.EA creates an environment where strategy translates easily to execution, and IT assets are aligned for digital integration. This matters because: 

  • Reliance on legacy IT systems hold back 90% of businesses 
  • 56% of CEOs report that digital transformation in areas of AI, security, and digital business has driven increased revenue 
  • Executives believe that up to 50% of their revenue in five years will be driven by digital changes today 

As the industry moves ahead, enterprises without maturity and best practices plans will accumulate technical debt every year they miss out on the benefits of architecture carefully aligned to their business goals. Therefore, it is essential that organizations follow industry best practices, standards, and framework to align their technical and business objectives.