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DiamondCluster Sees Enterprise Architecture as the Cohesive Force Linking IT to the Rest of the Business

DiamondCluster Report Details Seven Essential Elements of Successful Enterprise Architecture Efforts

CHICAGO, Oct. 31 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ -- Ask many CEOs about their company's enterprise architecture and you'll be met with blank stares, skepticism or complaints about the IT department's ivory tower playground. Yet a solid enterprise architecture (EA) can be the most crucial factor in ensuring that the millions of dollars companies spend on hardware, software and IT services actually deliver value to the rest of the business.

What is typically missing from most EA efforts, according to DiamondCluster International , are what the global management consulting firm calls the seven essential elements of enterprise architecture. These elements empower a chief information officer (CIO) to engage the rest of the business in productive IT investment discussions, manage the inherent complexity of information in an organization and govern the implementation of new technology so that the IT department focuses on those efforts that deliver the greatest benefit.

"EA is a comprehensive set of models that describe the structure and functions of an enterprise, and that captures the principles, policies and standards used to align business and technology," explained Dave Baker, a partner at DiamondCluster and the firm's own chief architect.

"It's the linkage between the business and the delivery that's often lost," Baker added. "With the proper alignment, a company can use EA to reduce complexity, increase the speed of delivery of new IT functionality and reduce the total cost of ownership. But without it, there's little chance of using IT to create breakthrough value."

Based on its work in helping scores of large organizations in multiple industries DiamondCluster has pinpointed seven essential elements in an effective enterprise architecture. The firm's white paper, "Seven Essential Elements of Enterprise Architecture" can be obtained by sending an email to [email protected] .

Engaging the Business

The first two of DiamondCluster's essential EA elements address proven practices for engaging the rest of the business in the architecture effort. The best way of engaging business stakeholders in an EA initiative is to develop a set of guiding principles. These are a collection of definitive statements that guide the organization in conducting specific business and technical functions.

"Avoid complex technical models and diagrams," Baker said. "Good guiding principles are clear, concise descriptions that describe company imperatives. Once the business and IT are united around guiding principles, those principles can serve as a filter for weeding out IT investments that aren't consistent with the firm's goals and objectives."

The second element, blueprinting, is the art of documenting EA models and standards. There are a variety of blueprinting frameworks that identify blueprint contents, for example the Federal Enterprise Architecture Framework or the Zachman Framework. But these don't address how to actually develop the blueprints with others outside the IT organization.

"It is essential that the IT group's architects work closely with the rest of the business to document the mission, vision, goals objectives and business capabilities required to enable a business strategy," Baker said. "Then set key business metrics to measure progress in IT's efforts to help achieve the business vision."

Organizing for Success

Enterprise architects have to be more than IT experts; they often have to play the role of artist, guru, and coach to effectively engage the rest of the business. But nurturing these skills isn't easy. DiamondCluster's third essential EA element is organizing for architecture success. For companies just beginning an EA initiative this usually means establishing an EA services department that can address business, systems and technical architectures. Centralizing architecture skills is an efficient way to get architects involved in business strategy development and investment management. Then as the EA organization matures, the company can swing back to a more distributed structure, with architects embedded across various application and infrastructure departments.

The fourth element is a documented set of architectural processes that explain how architecture design is actually performed and implemented. Those processes might include blueprinting, integration planning, project architecture checkpoints and approvals.

"Actually creating an enterprise architecture requires a lot of doing," Baker said. "It seems obvious but if you don't write things down, there's always the risk that assumptions and tacit knowledge will be lost in the process. Documenting clear, traceable processes will reduce the time required to complete projects and help to manage expectations."

Baker also recommends that EA leaders use tools to store, model, analyze and communicate essential enterprise architecture information. "EA tools today can help provide business users with answers to such questions as: 'If we expand our marketing efforts in a new country, what information assets can we leverage to reduce risks and costs but also speed up our initiative?'" Baker said. "But there's also a note of caution. It takes careful analysis and a deep understanding of the relationships among various EA elements to get the maximum value from these tools."

Controlling the Effort

Once an EA effort is underway, two additional essential elements come into play. Architectural governance refers to how an organization makes decisions, sets priorities allocates resources, assigns accountability and manages its architectural processes. In addition to reviewing EA outputs, such as designs of to-be depictions of new systems, the governance body is the forum for resolving issues.

An effective governance body consists of a mix of subject matter experts and senior representatives from both the business and technical areas, and has the authority to make architectural decisions. That composition makes the governance body the ideal place to implement DiamondCluster's final essential EA element -- architecture metrics. For example, the governance body can measure the enterprise architecture for the percentage of strategic capabilities that have been realized, and the percentage of existing EA assets reused by a particular program. Ultimately, these metrics provide insight into aspects of the architecture that have real meaning to the business.

"Enterprise architecture incorporating these seven elements has tangible benefits," Baker said. "It can ensure that downstream implementation work matches the business vision, and can help guide investment and implementation activity. It creates the clear linkage between business vision and technical architecture. And it provides the IT department with the metrics to demonstrate progress towards realizing business objectives."

DiamondCluster International

DiamondCluster International is a premier global management consulting firm that helps leading organizations develop and implement growth strategies, improve operations, and capitalize on technology. Mobilizing multidisciplinary teams from our highly skilled strategy, technology, and operations professionals worldwide, DiamondCluster works collaboratively with clients, unleashing the power within their own organizations to achieve sustainable business advantage. DiamondCluster is headquartered in Chicago, with offices across Europe, the Middle East and South America. To learn more visit http://www.diamondcluster.com/ .

Contacts: David Moon Media Relations work: +1.312.255.4560 cell: +1.708.623.4133 [email protected] Laura Cinat Investor Relations +1.312.255.6167 [email protected]

DiamondCluster International, Inc.

CONTACT: David Moon, Media Relations, work, +1-312-255-4560, cell,
+1-708-623-4133, [email protected] , or Laura Cinat, Investor
Relations, +1-312-255-6167, [email protected] , both of
DiamondCluster International, Inc.

Web site: http://www.diamondcluster.com/

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