A new survey in the South African financial sector shows that local companies are aware of the growing importance of enterprise architecture.
A survey conducted among enterprise architecture (EA) practitioners in the South African financial sector by the University of Pretoria and Real IRM has found that local companies are aware of the growing importance of EA, and that it is considered important for business and IT alignment, and for guiding change.
"EA projects are prolonged and costly, so it is vital to know what factors contribute to their success or failure," says Paul van der Merwe of Real IRM. "We also wanted to establish the status quo of EA implementation in South Africa, and to identify factors specific to this country. We focused on the financial sector as it is highly dependent on IT and most companies in this sector have EA initiatives in place."
Paul van der Merwe of Real IRM
Different aspects of EA were investigated, including the place of EA in organisational and strategic governance, the architects, practices and processes, and the measurement of EA initiatives. The study found that although the importance of EA is acknowledged, companies differ with respect to the maturity level of EA implementation.
Enterprise architectures are comprehensive business frameworks that capture the complexity of modern organisations, providing a blueprint for co-ordinating and integrating all components of an organisation.
"Highly complex systems require co-ordination and integration in order to manage the existing interdependencies between all these components," says Van der Merwe. "If these interdependencies are not sufficiently accounted for, silo solutions and isolated systems with an increased level of complexity may result as a consequence."
These frameworks are not IT focused or controlled by technology (apart from the role software can play in simplifying the discovery and presentation of the architecture), but create a map of the organisation's basic business processes which can then be broken down further into smaller levels of detail.
It is in this area that Real IRM specialises. As a small company that emerged from the depths of SAB's IT department, Real IRM is capitalising on the growing realisation in South African companies that enterprise architectures deliver the knowledge and insight into a company that no other application of business model can. In fact, knowing how the various pieces of a company fit together is critical in meeting governance requirements.
Knowing what you have and how it works is also important if management is to be able to cut waste in their companies. And when designed correctly, the architectural model becomes the business documentation on which the whole company is based. For example, when generating a job description for new employees, the model provides all the information needed, from roles and responsibilities down to the intricate details of the job - if necessary.
Stuart Macgregor, MD of Real IRM expects EA will become an essential capability in all companies irrespective of size. When management understands the value of EA, it will quickly justify the expense and effort when compared to the outcomes.
A conceptual map
Van der Merwe says EAs present a conceptual map of an organisation from business, applications, information and technological points of view. This conceptual map is a mandatory requirement for various management tasks such as business process engineering or quality management.
"It is also indispensable for IT-related initiatives, such as software engineering, workflow management or enterprise systems management," he adds.
"It is imperative that enterprise architectures reflect strategic and operational as well as managerial and technical issues."
The main research question: "How do South African companies implement enterprise architecture in the financial sector?" was broken down into sub-questions on the strengths of EA, the place of EA in organisational governance, the architects, practices and processes and the evaluation of EA efforts.
Of the six companies that participated in the study, five were very large, with one having over 50 000 employees, and an IT department of more than 1000 people.
The findings of the study were:
* EA is prominent in both large and small companies. This is not the case at international level.
* Companies believe the most important contribution of EA is its role in managing complexity, transformation, and business and IT alignment.
* Most companies are aware of the growing importance of EA, but it remains the responsibility of the CIO and IT managers instead of the CEO and business managers.
* Most enterprise architects within companies are technology and application architects.
* Most enterprise architects are self-educated, and certification by an official authority is considered unimportant. However, apart from self-education, local enterprise architects are also trained by the organisation itself as well as by external architects.
* Most companies organise coaching by an experienced enterprise architect for their architects. Proven experience is the preferred way of choosing such an expert.
* Most companies prefer to use their own EA frameworks. The study shows a preference for the Zachman framework and TOGAF (The Open Group Architecture Framework, an architecture framework and methodology that provides a comprehensive approach to the design, planning, implementation, and governance of enterprise information architecture), compared to international companies. (Real IRM's Macgreegor is also the local driver for the Open Group and keeps the local flag flying in discussions on standards development).
* Microsoft Visio is the most popular EA tool. On an international level there is growing use of Popkin's System Architect tool.
* BPML is a popular business modelling technique.
* UML is a popular system modelling technique. The study indicates heavy reliance on a company's own business and systems modelling techniques.
This tendency is declining in international companies.
"The study was limited by the fact that only a small sample of companies were investigated," notes Van der Merwe, "but we believe that by broadening its scope and refining it, the study could add value to the practices of local enterprise architects by enabling them to better understand their field, and to position themselves both locally and internationally."