Creating an Effective Enterprise Architecture Practice for Government

Enterprise Architecture is a strategic function that is required by any organization. In the realm of government it is even more critical. From an IT perspective, a government operates like a large conglomerate. For example, in Oakland County, Michigan, we have over 80 different “business lines” that are supported by IT. When you combine that diversity of functions with the need for operational integration, collaboration and the advent of new technologies, Enterprise Architecture is crucial.

But what exactly is Enterprise Architecture? Enterprise Architecture means different things to different people. You will get a unique definition from almost everyone you ask. To some, Enterprise Architecture involves assembling a team of people with deep application knowledge, and asking them to create a vision for integrating different applications together when needed. To others, it is about creating a technical infrastructure that can support application goals. At Oakland County, we have defined the mission of Enterprise Architecture to be “driving the County toward a future state based in trust with reduced costs, reduced risk, increased innovation and improved business partner enablement”.

So the next question you may be thinking is: how do we execute this mission? We use a practical model for Enterprise Architecture, which means:

  • Enterprise Architecture establishes processes, procedures and controls which all of the organization can live by.
  • The Enterprise Architecture team and practice is right-sized and nimble.
  • We use best practices from a variety of Enterprise Architecture frameworks to enable real business value.

When creating your team, it is critical to bring together a group who understands business, applications, data, security and technical architecture considerations to help make the best risk-based decisions for your organization.

It is also important to understand what Enterprise Architecture will not do….

  • Enterprise Architecture will not fix everything. Revising history is expensive and difficult to justify. Enterprise Architecture learns from history and helps put the guiderails in place to avoid repeating the same mistakes.
  • Enterprise Architecture is not free project labor. In most organizations, the Enterprise Architecture team does not bill hours. Often project teams will see this as free labor. Enterprise Architecture advises on product solutions and strategy, but the team should not be used for coding.
  • Enterprise Architecture will not drive individual wants. Since Enterprise Architecture helps create a strategic agenda for the organization, many people talk about improvements they would like to see. It is essential to have this input for developing plans, but it doesn’t mean it will be done automatically that way. Enterprise Architecture always needs to be a part of the bigger picture. 

It takes planning and vision to put all the pieces together in a cohesive Enterprise Architecture. Enterprise Architecture ties the business vision to the building blocks for the future, while launching the governance and project engagement processes to make it a reality. In future posts, we’ll go deeper into these aspects of Enterprise Architecture for government.

Author: EJ Widun, Enterprise Architect for Oakland County, Michigan