Governance is right at the center when it comes to making EA effective!

The TOGAF documents include quite a bit about governance. In some ways it may seem that governance is a separate topic, and not something that an enterprise architect needs to be involved with. The reality is that good governance is right at the centre when it comes to making EA effective!

Earlier this week I was working with a recently formed EA team. We talked about the need for certain essentials – things like frameworks, procedures, and EA tools.  As part of this I did a quick assessment of the maturity of the EA, and then we looked at what the team needed to do to be successful. Everything was going well, until I asked about governance.

The senior member of the team said: “That’s OK. It’s already in place as part of our solution development, so we don’t need to worry about it.” At this point, klaxons started blaring and red lights began flashing! Because from experience I have found that there is a direct correlation between the success of an EA team and their attitude towards governance.

Without a strong architectural voice at the governance table, the EA contribution and value will always be compromised. Unless you have effective EA governance, then you will suffer the following outcomes:

  • Short-term, reactive fixes over proactively building longer-term capability.
  • Inconsistent, ad-hoc and stand-alone solutions over an integrated, coherent set of services.
  • Unnecessary duplication of functionality or data, over taking advantage of potential sharing, synergies or collaboration.

I could go on! The potential advantages in using EA are enormous, but because governance lacks architectural guts these benefits are not realized.

I’m sure you get the picture. But what can you do to give EA the governance prominence it needs? Here are two clarifications that will help you get started.

Firstly, you need to really know why governance is so important. If you consider the TOGAF Architecture Development Method (ADM) cycle, then it is clear that Phases A to E – from the Architecture Vision, through the Business, Information Systems and Technology Architectures, to the Opportunities and Solutions – is about defining architectural options. It is all about understanding constraints implied in current architectures, and exploring alternative ways to address these limitations and satisfy stakeholder concerns.

In effect, these early phases provide architectural ideas, recommendations, and options. By Phase E we have provided a clear architectural context for making investment decisions and selecting one option over another. But at no point have we committed resources and funds to implement any of these ideas, nor have we made anyone accountable for these changes.

That is what happens in Phases F, G and H – which cover Migration Planning, Implementation Governance, and Architecture Change Management. Without really good and strong governance practice in these Phases, effort from previous Phases remains a theoretical waste!

The second thing is to be clear about the key things that need to be in place for effective architectural governance.

governance2TOGAF lists 6 characteristics of governance that they adapt from a book about Corporate Governance originally written for South African companies.[i] It is worth spelling out exactly what each of these mean (note that I’ve regrouped these characteristics into 4 areas):

  • Discipline: All of the necessary authority structures, procedures and processes have been fully established, and that everyone involved is committed to them. That means that a Governance Framework shows all involved parties – including decision makers and the EA team. It means that all investment decisions follow a process to ensure that changes comply with architectural guidelines.
  • Transparency: All actions and decisions are logged and can be inspected. This requires the EA team to have a clear system for recording decisions and actions, and showing a trace to the relevant EA artefacts – such as principles, policies, patterns, or other building blocks.
  • Independence / Fairness: Everything is done with a view to avoiding conflicts of interest, and to avoid unfair advantage of any party. Don’t forget here that a key role of the enterprise architect is to consider all stakeholder concerns, and to come up alternative architectural responses, their costs, benefits, risks and future options they enable. These architectural deliverables can then be used to weigh pros and cons, make choices, and prioritise investments in a way that minimises conflicting interests and maximises synergies and the greater good.
  • Accountability / Responsibility: All of the key groups within the organization have the necessary authority and responsibility for their decisions and actions. This means that if there is a decision to waive or override an architectural recommendation, then the decision makers understand that they are liable for that decision.

Remember the recently formed EA team I mentioned earlier. They now have two critical actions that will have a strong bearing on their future success:

  1. To explain to all stakeholders why EA governance is crucial.
  2. To update the existing Governance Framework with effective EA governance, including the necessary discipline, transparency, independence/fairness, and accountability/responsibility.

Of the two actions – both are important. Everyone needs to know why it’s all in the governance, but it also has to be much more than knowing. Ultimately governance needs to work!

[i] Corporate Governance: An Essential Guide for South African Companies, Ramani Naidoo, Juta and Company Ltd, 2002

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