EA can be effectively leveraged as a foundation for industry reference architectures e.g. the retail reference architecture. Equally effectively EA can also be leveraged as the mechanism for business and technology governance as well as technology performance monitoring.

In this article I would like to propose that EA is also an effective tool for the operating model management, both for the definition as well as the ongoing life cycle management. It may be worthwhile visiting some industry definitions for operating model before we explore how EA can be effective here.

The definition of operating model varies based on the organisational and operational context in which it is applied and hence probably one definition may not fit all operating model scenarios. However, if I had to choose one definition, I would like to refer to the IBM’s definition of the operating model. IBM proposes that a target operating model (TOM) helps determine the best design and deployment of resources to achieve an organisation’s business goals. It provides current operational maturity assessment and roadmap to defining and / or improving organisation’s operations strategy. Key deliverable include business review, current operating model assessment, desired future state and change management plan roadmap.

Now that we have briefly summarised an illustrative operating model definition, let us explore how EA as a discipline or practice can be leveraged as a tool for its management. There are a number of good EA frameworks available for this purpose and recent revisions of certain frameworks have further established them as leading candidates for this purpose.

I do not advocate or support a specific EA framework on this blog, however, for illustration purposes I am going to be using the TOGAF 9 as the tool for operating model management. I would like to also mention the Zachman EA framework as the other leading framework which may be equally effective or in some application scenarios it may be a better fit.

The purpose of this article is not to explain or define the TOGAF 9 and I would highly recommend visiting the Open Group website for relevant documentation. However, for the ease of reference, I am going to share the TOGAF ADM which is the process for EA management in TOGAF. The process links the vision and strategy of the organisation and its business / functions with a portfolio of change programs that realises this strategy. TOGAF uses various architecture disciplines such as business architecture, information architecture (data and application) and technology architecture as mechanism for linking the strategy with implementation and governance of change programs to deliver on the strategy.

The central argument that I am now going to make is that such a process of EA can be seamlessly deployed and leveraged to manage the organisation operating model. A number of EA frameworks and especially Zachman categorically state that the application of EA should not be restricted or limited to the information technology systems. It is a true framework for organisation and business management. For instance applying the TOGAF to manage the IBM TOM will result in following mapping:

  1. The business goals and strategy can be defined by the preliminary phase while the vision underpinning this is defined in phase A architecture vision
  2. The assets and the locations of the TOM along with key processes can be captured and defined during the phase B business architecture
  3. Certain aspects of skills, capabilities, culture and processes too can be captured in phase B
  4. The technology, processes, performance metrics can be captured through phases C and D while defining the information and the technology architecture.
  5. The sourcing options and alliances can be identified and shortlisted in phase E opportunities and solutions
  6. The phase F of migration planning can be used to identify the roadmap for change through what TOGAF calls as transition architectures
  7. Finally culture which is central to TOM needs to be constantly be a driving force as well as the recipient for the requirements for change

I would like to again highlight that this is simply an illustration of managing a view of operating model with a particular EA approach. However, a number of other variations can be equally effectively managed by similar approach.

About the author

Amitabh Apte is a senior enterprise architecture practitioner who specialises in business and technology strategy definition, governance, architecture as well as methods and tools. He is an active industry networker, blogger, speaker and contributor to the advancement of enterprise architecture discipline.