Business operations often involve numerous ICT applications, which can result in an information hodge podge. Using an excessive number of different applications – and therefore, information flows – leads to unnecessary direct costs for the application and inefficiency. Additionally, if processes are cumbersome, illogical and/or confusing employees might get the impression that their activities are inefficient or that they do not have a proper oversight over their activities. This can be quite frustrating and people will be more likely to make mistakes than if the I(C)T implementations for the process are optimized.
Apart from efficiency, optimizing the interaction between IT and business processes eases the process of organizational change. If processes are less complex and more efficient, transformational processes logically will be too.
This is why it is key to map which processes are supported by which applications. A next step can be to eliminate the unnecessary software or use one tool for more processes than before. However, identifying a minimum number and defining all business processes is a complex task that involves extremely abstract thinking. Even though humans are capable of doing this, it is much easier to let software do the thinking for you.
Who should be involved in enterprise architecture?
Large companies often hire enterprise architects to design processes and information systems. If they are the only ones that are able to influence the enterprise architecture (EA), this is suboptimal. Since enterprise architects are not involved in the operational processes themselves, they might overlook valuable insights that users would be able to detect. Therefore, it the contribution of all employees to the enterprise architecture should be stimulated. Contributions could still be controlled and approved by management.
Another drawback of the large involvement of people in enterprise architecture is that humans are prone to bias and manpower is expensive. If people are mainly responsible for the ICT architecture, it should be updated manually.
What tools are able to support the development of enterprise architecture?
In the ideal situation, optimization should be automated. EA software exists to automate the creation of links between the IT landscape and business processes. It can do more than an enterprise architect.
As an example: with the BlueDolphin software by ValueBlue, EA occurs as follows. BlueDolphin maps the current situation, predominantly automatically. Management, architects, process owners, functional and technical managers work together in one repository with intelligent, user-friendly functionalities. Every department profits from the software from its own perspective. Even decision making is supported by customizable visualizations. The language of EA, ArchiMate, is utilized in BlueDolphin, which supports consistency in models. The models can be created rapidly and can be shared easily.
Besides EA, BlueDolphin supports application portfolio management and enterprise architecture. In addition, it provides a business process module to model business processes. The information is retrieved from different sources, such as configuration management database and spreadsheets. It gathers functional financial and technical information from all applications.
What added value does this have for startups?
For startups enterprise architecture is relevant. However, in the very first year of an organization’s existence it might not be a profitable investment. Enterprise architecture software is a large investment. Additionally, in the first year of operation, there might not be sufficient data to process for the software. After having a few processes set up and data available, the software might be more effective. Ultimately, EA software is supposed to result in improved efficiency. Many startups will not survive, but EA tools increase the odds of success. Thanks to optimized EA, startups are able to respond more efficiently and thus more quickly to changes in the business environment.