Process Centric Enterprise Architecture: Towards an agile Enterprise and Architecture

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We live in a process powered world and the only thing the customer is interested in is WIFM (What's in-it for me?). Customers are tired of hearing phrases such as "customer centric" and "world class" and "service oriented". If your process outcomes are not aligned to the customer's goals and you do not provide an excellent service (note: not a superior product) - guess what?

How does this affect Enterprise Architecture?

If an organisation doesn’t change its way of developing products for more than 40 years, do we expect that organisation to stay in business for very much longer?

The same is true for IT. For 40+ years the majority of solutions have been designed and developed to manipulate data. This viewpoint is even entrenched in the name – IT: Information Technology. If the IT community does not change the viewpoint from which it currently designs solutions (a data mind-set) to a process mind-set, it will struggle to keep on delivering solutions that offer value to organisations.

The business community is changing the way it views its services and this world-wide trend is changing how organisations develop services and engage with customers:

  • Commodities are becoming very similar and the major differentiators are process and value diversification.
  • It’s not about attracting the major market share and holding onto it, but about capturing a market share by improving the customer value and experience for that commodity – even if it is only for a short while.
  • Business priorities have changed from having a unique set of products to having similar products to the opposition, but supported by innovative processes and superior customer experience.
  • Business is expecting IT to follow suit and smaller IT companies have taken this opportunity to establish themselves and to out-deliver and out-perform bigger established IT companies.

This trend is happening fast as organisations are changing to be process- and customer oriented / centric. Some IT companies have picked up on this trend and are providing solutions that support the development and execution of processes; which in turn optimises human-process interaction. They are relegating the idea of developing software to manipulate data into an archaic (legacy) attempt to support business goals.

This trend is also true for enterprise architecture (EA). There are a number of Enterprise Architecture frameworks and methodologies to assist the enterprise in

  • Classifying enterprise architecture components
  • Understanding the relationships among these components
  • Presenting them in a visual representation that makes sense to different audiences.

What I have found lacking in these approaches is:

  • the appropriate “entry point”
  • the appropriate placement of enterprise architecture
  • the correct use of enterprise architecture.

Why a process centric approach?

What is the common thing that ties what I do to my colleague, my manager, the person that receives my outputs, my organisation and finally to the customer?

  • It’s not the work product. Tomorrow I produce another one that may be different in attributes or quality.
  • It’s not the data. There is a plethora of data available to use and manipulate. If I don’t like yours, I will create my own.
  • It’s not the goals and objectives. There are usually a number of “unofficial” ways to affect the same end result in different ways.
  • The common thing that ties all of the above together is “work”.

How I do my work affects me (performance rating, bonus), my colleague (mutual expectations of deliveries), my manager (business targets), my downstream recipient (expectation of work product quality), my organisation (goals, performance, bottom line) and the customer (expectation, satisfaction).

Work is encapsulated in a process. A well designed process informs the process participants whether the work that they are doing meets the expected outcome, quality and governance requirements. How well the business processes of an organisation enable work determines the success of the organisation in the market. Efficient business processes provide competitive differentiation to the organisation.

When it comes to how the business processes are actually enabled in the enterprise, EA plays a significant role. EA is the link between the business concept of being agile and the role IT plays in enabling that agility.

Thus to make Enterprise Architecture relevant in the process age:

  • The appropriate “entry point” or “pivotal point” is process. To this pivotal point, all other EA components can be linked and related.
  • The appropriate placement of enterprise architecture is in the business. It is not an IT discipline, but rather a business function.
  • Enterprise Architecture is a:
    • Noun: the framework that allows for the classification and modelling of EA components to visually represent the blueprint of the enterprise.
    • Verb: the process of enabling the business vision and strategy to accomplish successful outcomes through process oriented solutions and applicable governance.
  • Last, but not least: EA must be outside-in to deliver on successful customer outcomes.

In deploying a process-centric enterprise architecture (or just Process Centric Architecture), an organisation combines data intelligence and process intelligence to provide detailed insight into business vision, goals, objectives, measures, processes, information, policy, applications, governance and infrastructure across an organisation, not just within individual functions or departments.

This enables an organisation to increase its flexibility, adaptability and overall ability to react to ever-changing business, operational, and/or regulatory environments - a much needed capability in today’s fast-paced and continually changing economic climate.

I will elaborate on these and other viewpoints in subsequent articles.


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