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For enterprise-architecture initiatives of any scale, involving the business side isn't an option. It's a requirement.

If you're just starting out in your first disciplined enterprise-architecture exercise, remember that this is a journey, not a destination. Don't initiate a forced march across the entire company. "Enterprise architecture doesn't always imply that you're going to analyze the whole business top-down," says Jan Popkin, CEO of Popkin Software, a developer of software designed to help organize architecture initiatives. Instead, begin with a project that affects a single business unit. This will allow you to construct a flexible framework that's relatively comprehensive for that part of the organization. You'll then have the basic building blocks to roll out in other business units as new initiatives appear.

Other companies will choose to begin an enterprise architecture with a project that has wide-ranging implications for the organization but that doesn't demand a comprehensive inventory of every single business and technical resource. "In our experience, [enterprise architecture is] most effective where it's driven by a specific initiative that also tends to touch on multiple points," says Nathaniel Palmer, vice president and chief analyst at Delphi Group. Good examples of horizontal initiatives would be the rollout of a content-management system, a customer relationship management application, or perhaps compliance with Sarbanes-Oxley requirements.

Where do most companies go wrong? By taking on too much. The most difficult part of enterprise architecture is determining just how extensive your initiative should be. "Scoping out your architecture and your efforts is probably where people make the most mistakes," says Rick Thomas, CIO for the U.S. Army Community and Family Support Center, an organization that provides diverse services to 10 million servicemen and women and their families. Richard Buchanan, enterprise-architecture practice director for META Group Inc., agrees. "The key to success," he says, "is not trying to model everything at a granular level of detail."

"We do it in baby steps," adds David Caddis, vice president of application infrastructure management at Candle Corp., an IT vendor that says it has conducted more than 2,000 enterprise-architecture engagements in the past five years. "When you try to wrap your arms around the whole thing, you go into panic mode because of the scale."

Ask Your Business Constituents:

  • Can you be an integral part of the process to help ensure its success?

    Ask Your Architect:

  • How are we determining the level of detail that's being built into our architectural plans?

    Tell Your Staff:

  • This isn't a one-time effort. We're in this for the long haul.

  • This article was originally published on 01-01-2004
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