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Enterprise architecture is first and foremost a people exercise. Make sure you know the best way to get others involved.

CIOs, consultants and analysts all agree that enterprise architecture isn't initially about technology at all. It's about putting processes in place that enable people to reach agreement on thorny business and technology issues; and it's about making sure these processes continue to work over time. "Enterprise architecture may seem to be a tool for IT," Thomas says, but, "in reality, it is a tool to be used by IT executives to support the business owners."

According to Caddis, the CIO has three challenges in putting together an enterprise architecture: "His people, and the technical battles that go on beneath him; the competing interests of various lines of business; and the board, or the CFO, or whoever's funding the infrastructure." All of these are people problems.

Start with the business units. For an enterprise architecture exercise to succeed, business constituents must be involved from the beginning, because their priorities must drive the underlying initiative. "There needs to be a business sponsor, or at least a business partner, rather than something that's coming solely from the CIO," says Delphi's Palmer.

Making sure business constituents are clearly defining business priorities and processes, however, may involve more work up front in articulating requirements. It's IT's job to convince them the extra work is worthwhile. Thomas describes one situation in which his group was able to demonstrate that users had requested the wrong custom software for a project. He was then able to substitute an off-the-shelf application that saved over $100,000, thus providing a rapid ROI for his architectural efforts.

The next hurdle is within IT itself. Software developers can be the greatest enemies of architecture, because technical and departmental bigotry can sink any attempts to encourage the use of standards. But Don Buskard, senior vice president and CTO of AXA Financial Services LLC, a subsidiary of AXA Financial Inc., says his company had the right architectural components in place to bring internal developers into the fold. "You've got to write a lot of code if you don't use the architecture," he says.

The final people challenge is the funding of architectural efforts. Your CFO might not see an obvious connection between a flexible architecture and saving money. The ultimate weapon: metrics. AXA Financial's Buskard says his company religiously tracked its architecture-related initiatives, and though this required AXA to spend about $35 million over the past 11 years on planning, development, testing, and implementation, the company saved $55 million by avoiding the need to create unnecessary software.

Ask Your Project Office:

  • In which of our current business initiatives would it make the most sense to involve business constituents in an architectural exercise?

    Ask Your Architect:

  • Do we have the right incentives in place to help discourage "rogue" application development?

    Ask Your CFO:

  • If we can prove what we would save, will we be able to get the initial funding to kick off an architecture exercise?

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