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Which comes first: Governance or Architecture?

Which comes first: Governance or Architecture?
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At MEGA, we often talk about using a “business GPS” to guide you through the new digital landscape. For a GPS to work efficiently, it needs a good fix on your current location, a destination, your preferences (ex.: avoid toll roads or highways), and a reference map. If one of these elements is missing, the GPS can’t provide you with optimal results. But when building a GPS for your organization, where do you start?

Governance revolves around setting and managing the direction of the organization in terms of strategy, policies, guidance, compliance, etc. But how do you define governance if you don’t understand who you are, where you are and where you are going?  In the example of the GPS, think of governance as setting the parameters for your trip: your starting point, your destination, and your preferences. Organizations are confronted with many internal and external governance related requirements, and poor governance, non-compliance with regulatory requirements, and poor risk management can erode the company’s competitive advantage and customer confidence. To effectively manage those requirements, organizations often embark on efforts to document certain aspects of their processes, data, organization, systems and technologies. However these efforts are often uncoordinated, siloed, and limited to answering a single question or meeting a specific requirement. Duplicative efforts in documenting the organization’s architecture will likely increase the overhead cost of managing risk and demonstrating compliance, and ultimately lower the expected benefits of good governance. What is really needed are a common framework and practices to structure the data collected and coordinate documentation efforts.

In the example of the GPS, architecture represents the reference map that provides context to your current location, destination and preferences. Every organization that starts an Enterprise Architecture (EA) practice faces the same questions: where do we start? How far do we go? How will we show the value of what we’re doing? There are often already some architecture efforts going on in the organization, whether it’s to support risk management, change management, compliance management, etc., and trying to set up a practice and framework to coordinate such efforts is often a complex exercise in dealing with internal politics. Without clear leadership, and clear direction on where to focus efforts, an organization’s Enterprise Architecture (EA) practice can quickly become just a documentation drill, with teams trying to capture every aspect of the organization (whether it provides value or not). Many architecture practices fail because of a lack of perceived value, whether because they failed to answer the questions that mattered to the organization, or because they lacked strong leadership and goals.

To help along, here are some best practices in building your organization’s GPS:

  • Identify a strong champion with a clear vision: every successful practice (Enterprise Architecture (EA), governance, change, etc.) starts with a strong sponsor who firmly believes in the value of it, and who is able to communicate it and convince others to follow them. Without a clear vision, you cannot determine the scope and expectations of your efforts.
  • Eat the elephant one bite at a time: define a clear and manageable scope of work. Whether you decide to document the organization at a high-level to show interdependencies, or to go into the details of just a single slice of the organization to show the value of in-depth analysis, it is critical to set boundaries. This will help manage expectations, and ensure that your teams are focusing on demonstrating real value. But whatever approach you take, be sure to have a strategy for growing and maturing your practice. Work with your stakeholders to establish a roadmap for growing your practice; this will also help ensure you have the right resources as you grow.
  • Coordinate your efforts with an integrated approach: with the GPS, your location, destination, and preferences only really apply to your current context (reference). Place them into a different context, and the results the GPS will give you may be different (ex.: if you want to avoid toll roads, but are in a country where they only have toll roads). Consequently you need to define governance within the context of your organization, and the best way to do that is to ensure that your governance and architecture efforts are not only coordinated, but also integrated.

The bottom line is that in the end, it doesn’t matter where your efforts start: Enterprise Architecture (EA), IT Portfolio Management, Risk management, etc. What matters is to start somewhere where you have a strong champion and can show some quick wins by demonstrating value, and to manage efforts in a cohesive, integrated manner to give yourself room to grow and mature…one bite of elephant at a time…

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Frequent Contributor

At MEGA, we often talk about using a “business GPS” to guide you through the new digital landscape. For a GPS to work efficiently, it needs a good fix on your current location, a destination, your preferences (ex.: avoid toll roads or highways), and a reference map. If one of these elements is missing, the GPS can’t provide you with optimal results. But when building a GPS for your organization, where do you start?

Governance revolves around setting and managing the direction of the organization in terms of strategy, policies, guidance, compliance, etc. But how do you define governance if you don’t understand who you are, where you are and where you are going?  In the example of the GPS, think of governance as setting the parameters for your trip: your starting point, your destination, and your preferences. Organizations are confronted with many internal and external governance related requirements, and poor governance, non-compliance with regulatory requirements, and poor risk management can erode the company’s competitive advantage and customer confidence. To effectively manage those requirements, organizations often embark on efforts to document certain aspects of their processes, data, organization, systems and technologies. However these efforts are often uncoordinated, siloed, and limited to answering a single question or meeting a specific requirement. Duplicative efforts in documenting the organization’s architecture will likely increase the overhead cost of managing risk and demonstrating compliance, and ultimately lower the expected benefits of good governance. What is really needed are a common framework and practices to structure the data collected and coordinate documentation efforts.

In the example of the GPS, architecture represents the reference map that provides context to your current location, destination and preferences. Every organization that starts an Enterprise Architecture (EA) practice faces the same questions: where do we start? How far do we go? How will we show the value of what we’re doing? There are often already some architecture efforts going on in the organization, whether it’s to support risk management, change management, compliance management, etc., and trying to set up a practice and framework to coordinate such efforts is often a complex exercise in dealing with internal politics. Without clear leadership, and clear direction on where to focus efforts, an organization’s Enterprise Architecture (EA) practice can quickly become just a documentation drill, with teams trying to capture every aspect of the organization (whether it provides value or not). Many architecture practices fail because of a lack of perceived value, whether because they failed to answer the questions that mattered to the organization, or because they lacked strong leadership and goals.

To help along, here are some best practices in building your organization’s GPS:

  • Identify a strong champion with a clear vision: every successful practice (Enterprise Architecture (EA), governance, change, etc.) starts with a strong sponsor who firmly believes in the value of it, and who is able to communicate it and convince others to follow them. Without a clear vision, you cannot determine the scope and expectations of your efforts.
  • Eat the elephant one bite at a time: define a clear and manageable scope of work. Whether you decide to document the organization at a high-level to show interdependencies, or to go into the details of just a single slice of the organization to show the value of in-depth analysis, it is critical to set boundaries. This will help manage expectations, and ensure that your teams are focusing on demonstrating real value. But whatever approach you take, be sure to have a strategy for growing and maturing your practice. Work with your stakeholders to establish a roadmap for growing your practice; this will also help ensure you have the right resources as you grow.
  • Coordinate your efforts with an integrated approach: with the GPS, your location, destination, and preferences only really apply to your current context (reference). Place them into a different context, and the results the GPS will give you may be different (ex.: if you want to avoid toll roads, but are in a country where they only have toll roads). Consequently you need to define governance within the context of your organization, and the best way to do that is to ensure that your governance and architecture efforts are not only coordinated, but also integrated.

The bottom line is that in the end, it doesn’t matter where your efforts start: Enterprise Architecture (EA), IT Portfolio Management, Risk management, etc. What matters is to start somewhere where you have a strong champion and can show some quick wins by demonstrating value, and to manage efforts in a cohesive, integrated manner to give yourself room to grow and mature…one bite of elephant at a time…