Strategic Planning with Enterprise Architecture

Laura Six-Stallings from QAD gave a presentation on how they are using enterprise architecture for strategic corporate planning, which absolutely fascinated me since most EA projects that I’ve been involved in have been focussed at much lower levels. She used some wonderfully funny war analogies, going so far to call ProVision a “weapon of mass depiction”, which takes the prize for the best quote of the day.

Since I had been online earlier and determined that her presentation was not available on the Proforma website, I ended up taking a lot of notes, so have a better memory of this presentation than some of the others. I didn’t see anything in the presentation that would have made it particularly proprietary, since she didn’t show their actual strategic planning results, just talked about the methodology for achieving it, but some companies are more paranoid than others.

They started their EA initiative in 2002 with about a dozen business and technology architects, and started using ProVision just last year to implement the Zachman framework. They have a very holistic view of EA, from corporate strategy on down, and they hit their strategic planning process as an early target for EA. Like many organizations, they did their strategic planning in PowerPoint and Word; with over 60 pages of slides and 280 pages of backup documentation, it was a time-consuming and error-prone process to create it in the first place, then to map that onto the more concrete goals of the organization. By implementing EA and ProVision, they were looking to improve the entire process, but also gain some clarity of alignment between strategy, business and technology, and some clarity of ownership over processes and strategies.

She made several turns of phrase that elicited a knowing laugh from the audience — IKIWISI [I Know It When I See It] requirements; As-Was and Could-Be models — but really brought home the challenges that they had to overcome, and the wins that they are expecting as this process rolls out. The biggest issues weren’t surprising: a perception of complexity, based in part of the limited ProVision expertise within QAD, and the cultural shift required to embrace a new way of modelling their strategic plans. However, they now have a long-term strategic plan based roughly on balanced scorecard objectives, and have a whole list of anticipated benefits:

  • Common taxonomy and semantics
  • A holistic multi-dimensional view of enterprise activities
  • Enforced alignment to the strategic plan model
  • Exposure of dependencies, relationships, impacts and conflicts
  • Improved communication and acceptance of the strategic plan
  • Improved priority management
  • Common processes
  • Effective reporting and analysis
  • Improved collaboration

Quite lofty goals, but achievable given the level that they’re attacking with EA. What I took away from this, and from other conversations that I had during the two days, is that to many people, “EA” really translates to IT architecture, but not at QAD.

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