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By Kosta Hahladakis, Enterprise Architect, The Reserve Bank of New Zealand
My favorite analogy when explaining Enterprise Architecture is the story of the Winchester house. Continuously renovated by the widow of gun magnate William Winchester with no plan in mind, the house was developed with additions and alterations in a completely ad hoc manner resulting in a bizarre and sometimes downright dangerous maze of rooms and stairs. It's a great example of accidental architecture.
The reality is that you always have an information technology architecture, whether you planned for one or not. Most likely without some forethought (i.e. Enterprise Architecture) it is unlikely that your information technology systems will be meeting your business needs and may have become a hindrance rather than an enabler to your success. The real value of Enterprise Architecture is realized when an organization is in a position to turn individual decisions about technology into strategy - a plan outlining how technology will be leveraged to achieve the organization’s business and strategic goals.
As with all strategy the key to a great Enterprise Architecture starts with understanding the business mission. The organization’s vision, purpose and goals drive the future state business platform and the underlying technology architecture.
Most of the Enterprise Architectures I have seen are portrayed as elaborate models depicting structures and relationships between ‘building blocks’ or components. A lot of effort is placed on making sure all the pieces line up perfectly. A preoccupation with technical models, however, risks alienating some of the key stakeholders of the Enterprise Architecture, such as the executive leadership team. An effective Enterprise Architecture is in the language of the business, explaining the journey from where the organization currently is to where it needs to be. It tells the story of the organization’s mission and how the technology plans will support that mission. It must be explained in a manner that resonates with all stakeholders, not just the technical team.
Understanding the goals is not enough, a plan is needed to move from the current state to the future state, otherwise the Enterprise Architecture vision is just wishful thinking. This is the technology roadmap. It comes from analyzing the current state against the future state to identify gaps and opportunities for change. Changes are scoped as a set of programmes, outlining incremental changes to be made and most importantly the business outcomes and capabilities to be realized with each step. The architecture goes through a series of transformations as it evolves, often referred to as transitional architectures. In this way Enterprise Architecture becomes a digital strategy, answering the key questions - what do we want to achieve, what technology do we need, and how do we get there.
At the Reserve Bank of New Zealand we are practicing Enterprise Architecture to transform our use of information technology in central banking operations, from formulating monetary policy to undertaking prudential supervision. We have a bold and audacious mission to promote the prosperity and wellbeing of New Zealanders through a sustainable, productive, and inclusive economy. The Enterprise Architecture is being developed around the central themes in our business strategy - empowering the workforce with great tools, enabling closer stakeholder engagement, and providing world class analytical frameworks. In this way we are using Enterprise Architecture as strategy - to drive change and move us closer to our goal to be the Best Central Bank with a Great Team.