How enterprise architecture interrelates essential management disciplines

Enterprise architecture should not be an isolated discipline. Architects cannot achieve their professional goals without the assistance of other disciplines, and vice versa. Moreover, smooth collaboration between the essential management disciplines is vital for any organisation to effectively pursue its ambitions, and enterprise architecture is to play a central role in this mechanism. In this blog I will explain this role of enterprise architecture.

At the top of the pyramid in any organisation is the management discipline of strategic planning. Strategic planning can be defined as “a systematic process of envisioning a desired future, and translating this vision into broadly defined goals or objectives and a sequence of steps to achieve them” (source: businessdictionary.com). So the importance of strategic planning is to provide enterprise architecture with its key drivers: organisation goals and strategy. Without these, there is nothing to architect!

But strategic planning also relies on input from enterprise architecture. Without knowledge of business and technological trends creating new opportunities, and of limitations originating from current business and IT environment issues, strategic planning lacks the input that is essential to defining challenging but realistic ambitions that will drive future business.

Project portfolio management is the management discipline that prioritises and approves proposed projects and assigns resources such as budget and people to these projects. Project portfolio management relies on enterprise architecture to provide information on dependencies between projects (for a sound prioritisation), on project contribution to strategic goals (for approval), and on project impact (for proper resource allocation). This is not a one-time only exercise; projects should be frequently evaluated and altered or discontinued if necessary.

In return, project portfolio management provides enterprise architecture with business priorities and resources necessary to implement architectural changes that the enterprise architects envision. This is important, because no organisation can afford to implement architectural changes independent of business priorities, for after all it is business that brings in the money that is the condicio sine qua non of any corporate ambition.

The third management discipline that interrelates to enterprise architecture is project management. Projects have to follow the directives that enterprise architecture defines in terms of principles, standards and patterns. Where design decisions need to be made, architects advise which way to go. Although sometimes architectural directives and recommendations may seem more of a burden than a relief to an individual project, a purpose of architecture is to lower project costs and decrease project delivery times when regarded from an enterprise level.

In return, project management is the only discipline that actually delivers change. Without project management, enterprise architecture is nothing more than a dream that will never come true. Project management delivers the architectural improvements to the organisational environment that contribute to the goals set by strategic planning.

Concluding from the above, enterprise architecture is not only interacting with strategic planning, project portfolio management and project management, it is effectively the central hub that interrelates these three essential management disciplines. Without enterprise architecture, project management would be directionless, project portfolio management would be sightless, and strategic planning would be fruitless.

Erwin Oord (eoord@archixl.nl) is a principal consultant and managing partner at ArchiXL.

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