Enterprise Architecture Management: no sound planning without overview
// IT Processes and Organisation, IT Quality Improvement, IT Technology Consulting, IT-Outsourcing
A complete process map is the foundation of any IT management
Even still today, IT is merely a means to an end at a lot of companies. The history of in-house IT is long and twisted, the basic technical facts are confusing, and only comprehensible to „old hands“ at the company. IT serves merely as a tool for the core business and does therefore not receive the attention of a strategic factor in the planning that is decisive for success. At the same time, IT costs a lot of money and has to prove that it has an up-to-date cost/benefit ratio. This is the moment for a paradigm shift: the end of reaction and the beginning of strategy and planning. Hartmut Ossowitzki, management consultant at noventum consulting, has been working as an IT specialist for more than 20 years and advises heads of IT regarding the setup of a strategic EAM (Enterprise Architecture Management).
novum: Today, heads of IT must provide proof that they are doing the right thing, are thinking economically and are smartly positioned for the future. At the same time, IT is often perceived as a tool, far removed from the core business. In this situation, what is standing in the way of a sustainable EAM?
Hartmut Ossowitzki: The first obstacles can be found in IT itself: historically grown, penetrated by old boy networks, tightly connected to different departments in-house via the different applications, grown organically and without a master plan, that‘s how some IT departments appear. Everything is interlinked somehow, everything works somehow, and somehow it also could continue like this, of course. Fundamental analyses and planning initially promise primarily unrest and a lot of work.
In addition, corporate management often tends to perceive its own IT as too complex and inscrutable. To create order here and to initiate change is not considered to be all that attractive and promising. And then, of course, IT production must not be brought to a halt at any time.
novum: But does that mean that change can only come from the inside?
Hartmut Ossowitzki: Yes, a fundamental analysis and reorientation of IT departments of the type described can only be controlled by IT management itself. From a certain degree of complexity on, information technology simply evades basic economic business thinking. Here, specialist knowledge is needed.
»Economically, Enterprise Architecture Management is always a win«
novum: But like everything in life, it does – of course – cost money and, potentially, a lot of money. Why should companies tackle the topic of EAM nevertheless?
Hartmut Ossowitzki: Because, in the end, it generates money. For several years, there have been various detailed studies regarding this topic and it has been proven repeatedly that costs, energy and time can be saved once a company finally embarks on the path to subject its own IT to a structuring into head and limbs. In addition, a contemporarily positioned IT is more sustainable and can more believably make the claim that is going to also be able tomorrow to do what it is supposed to do.
novum: Let‘s get technical. What are the greatest sudden realisation moments at the beginning of an EAM project?
Hartmut Ossowitzki: Often, even the responsible parties themselves cannot say what happens when an arbitrary system fails, when a software needs to be adjusted or even is discontinued, when a system component needs to be replaced. Also, the multi-layered dependencies in the overall system, that can have the equivalent of a domino effect, often are not known precisely and completely.
novum: That sounds as if the heads of IT may not know what‘s happening in their IT.
Hartmut Ossowitzki: Well, they actually do know, but often they do not have a precise picture of the dependencies. Some IT components are, for example, in their functioning very close to business-critical processes, and nobody is really aware of this.
»To master the system means to also know the details«
novum: What is the requirement?
Hartmut Ossowitzki: An IT decision-maker should be able to show at any time, at the push of a button, what happens summarily when an arbitrary application fails. For the individual components of his IT, he should be able to generate indicators without laborious research being necessary. It is only this overview that allows him to perform strategic planning, to include buffers to be about to reliably cater to future requirements.
novum: What are the biggest sins that need to be uncovered?
Hartmut Ossowitzki: What is most astounding is how many redundancies exist in complex, grown system. Sometimes these are hardware components, sometimes applications, sometimes whole jobs that are, in essence, filled twice. And that without this actually being transparent.
novum: Why is it that these facts often are not known?
Hartmut Ossowitzki: There are several reasons. It must not be underestimated that some companies work with IT service providers that are „only“ being controlled by the company itself. A provider is, over the years, presented with one requirement after another, which also are processed sequentially. Because that is the provider‘s business. That this may result in the setup of a multitude of systems, once again sequentially and without a claim for consolidation, is no surprise, either. Job after job is being paid. And this way the greatest possible uncertainty exists on both sides as to which tasks may be completely superfluous.
novum: So, something was neglected here in the sourcing?
Hartmut Ossowitzki: Yes, if the IT decision-maker cannot say based on which systems the provider is fulfilling its orders, then transparency is lacking here and this prevents any sound planning. It is, of course, also not the provider‘s task to strategically plan the customer‘s IT. This task rests with the decision-makers at the company.
novum: What does the result of an EAM project ideally look like, what does the client hold in its hands at the end.
Hartmut Ossowitzki: The question is what is desired and at what scope. Starting with a process map, via standardised master plans, all the way to a meta plan of the overall architecture. Utilising only parts of this is also an option (from the different layers of the architecture such as technical architecture, application architecture, information architecture, business architecture). The topic may also be the interaction of components on the platforms. These are, in turn, defined by the applications with their information flows which cater to the business processes. Anything is possible. What‘s important, above all, is that it is being done.
novum: What‘s the advantage of utilising external support for the setup of one‘s Enterprise Architecture Management?
Hartmut Ossowitzki: As external consultants, we simply have the advantage of a good distance. Our view is not blocked. We bring with us the experience from various projects of this type so that we also know what approach we can take. From experience, we have various solution approaches on board and can provide very constructive suggestions what a future EAM should look like.
»EAM projects strengthen the leadership and planning competence of the heads of IT«
novum: What motivation do you recommend for the start of an EAM project to the heads of IT who want to become active here? Isn‘t this, in addition to the business and planning arguments, at its core also a recapturing of leadership competence?
Hartmut Ossowitzki: Yes, of course, it‘s a little bit like that, too. With EAM, the responsible management gains overview and planning competence – and that is, of course, also an aspect of leadership. But the moment of fact-finding is already one where the loyalty of the departments is needed. It is only when everybody is willing to reveal their facts that a new overall plan can be developed and/or new objectives can be focused on.
novum: What does an EAM project, in a social sense, do with the affected people in the IT organisation?
Hartmut Ossowitzki: In the beginning, there is typically scepticism. But after the first steps a good dynamic develops. The people talk with one another, are interested in what others are doing, and do jointly determine what could be done better.
novum: Is this an idealised picture?
Hartmut Ossowitzki: It sounds like it is, but it is not. In my experience, EAM projects at some point develop a strong dynamic of their own. Because it is fun to jointly get better! At the same time, sensitivity and good political networking are useful in order to be able to move something. And for this, once again, internal competence is in demand. Even though we consultants are surely very useful, we cannot achieve too much of anything without good allies.
novum: Thank you very much for the interview!