'To improve the effectiveness and efficiency of their organisation, business and information technology professionals need to understand that IT planning is a component of business planning, and why IT planning requires business participation and leadership'.

Strategic planning - history

In the 1970s and 1980s, the concept of strategy gained a foothold in the United States with Michael Porter and Peter Drucker spearheading much of this thinking. This was about the time that the Japanese became known for their manufacturing prowess. Japan's ability to mass produce newer, improved automobiles and electronics impressed the world, and overshadowed some of Porter's and Drucker's work. 

IT strategy became an academic topic and IT professionals starting paying lip service to strategic planning. The basic premise was 'full speed ahead - direction optional'. As a result, IT costs spiralled out of control. Most organisations were spending over 70 per cent of their IT budget on maintenance and support. This left little room for strategic projects, investing in new technologies, and keeping up with the rate of change in the business.

Rather than using a top-down business driven strategic approach to budgeting, most IT organisations created their budgets using a bottom-up technology focused approach. Each IT manager was asked to estimate their funding requirements. Some IT managers contacted colleagues, vendors and industry experts regarding new innovations and industry trends.

Other managers contacted their business partners to anticipate demand based on pending change requests. This approach resulted in stove pipes of technology, redundant systems and overlapping functionality. IT organisations grew while the backlog increased. Business managers were not happy with the overall quality of service from the IT organisation. A lot of business managers created shadow IT organisations to meet their needs. This resulted in additional stovepipes and a growing legacy of systems. 

What is the objective of enterprise architecture?

In the context of enterprise architecture, enterprise refers to a collection of organisations or people with a common set of goals and a single bottom line. An enterprise can be a corporation, business unit, government organisation, department, program, project, or a network linked together by a common objective. Enterprise can refer to something as large and complex as the United Nations. It can also refer to a small private company.

Again, in the context of enterprise architecture, architecture refers to the art and science of designing and building something of complexity, and the manner in which components and artifacts are organised. 

The objective of enterprise architecture is to facilitate IT strategic planning and aligning information technology with business needs. IT is now integral to every enterprise, and IT strategic planning cannot be done in a vacuum. IT strategic planning requires enterprise direction. Enterprise Architecture is the art and science of designing and building a series of representations - artefacts - describing the business area under analysis in such a way that these artefacts are clear and understandable to the many key people involved. 

Enterprise architecture artefacts could describe: strategies, business drivers, principles, stakeholders, units, locations, budgets, functions, processes, services, information, communications, applications, systems, infrastructure, etc.

Business and IT executives use enterprise architecture to discover and plan projects that improve the business, may result in technology initiatives, and are required to meet the organisation's long term business goals. The primary focus is on the business and business improvement, and the secondary focus is on IT. It is the job of the CIO to assist in improving business results, not just running and maintaining information systems.

Thousands of organisations have launched enterprise architecture projects. Some of these organisations have successfully introduced improvements that enabled them to achieve very aggressive goals. However, most successes have been limited to technology standardisation. 

Strategic planning requires making tough choices. Instead of being decisive and aligning information technology projects directly with business objectives, most IT departments tried to make everyone happy and continued to make changes with little regard for integration, reducing time to market, reuse, or measured business results.

About the author
This article has been presented by EACOE (Enterprise Architecture Centre of Excellence), an organisation focused on advancing the implementation and understanding of enterprise architecture. Its approach is practical, workshop based training to equip professionals, both working in and starting out in EA, to lead the way for both business and IT, armed with a full complement of foundation skills and tools for success.

For further information on enterprise architecture or details of the workshop outline, visit www.eacoe.org or contact them by email at info@eacoe.org.