Innovecture Innsight

The Conflict Between Enterprise Architecture and Vertical IT

The Conflict
The role and benefit of a dedicated Enterprise Architecture (EA) function for an organization is one of the most debated topics among the IT executive forums. The debate revolves around the conflict between EA and vertical IT departments around many usual and some interesting topics. This insight discusses the salient points of these topics and provides a viewpoint on the role and benefit of Enterprise Architecture function.

CIO’s continuously look for improving the value proposition of IT to the business and often use EA as the vehicle to define and implement the IT strategy. However EA often comes under scrutiny and causes debates within and outside the organization. Lets take a look at the key topics around which the EA debate happens.

Organization Structure: Creating an effective IT organization is often the foundation of aligning IT to the business. With the organization divided along various business lines often the IT is aligned to face the business units. This causes the IT to be divided among the vertical IT unit. Naturally the size and growth of IT is proportionate to the size and growth of the corresponding business unit/s. Each of these vertical business units tend to become self-sufficient, autonomous and like to operate under the freedom to take ALL IT decisions within their business unit funding constraints. This leads to the conflict between the vertical business unit and the horizontal EA organization (if one exists). This classic conflict between the horizontal and the vertical organization gives rise to overlapping functions and responsibilities. These kinds of conflicts are seen in the organizations where the EA has some or all part residing in the horizontal and non-business facing organization.

Funding Model: The nature of IT initiatives under the EA umbrella is often foundational, strategic and hence is not directly related to a specific business initiative. The strategic and long-term nature of the results of these initiatives makes creating the business case of these initiatives often challenging. The models vary from carving out a EA fund at the beginning of the planning year to creating a chargeback model to the various IT departments to using one of IT departments as the initial contributor to the funding. The right funding model is often debated and the decision is also linked to the EA organization structure and the funding model for that organization.

Technology adoption and standards: The business facing IT units feel that they can drive the IT adoption and standards better since they understand the business better and can adopt the technologies which are relevant to that particular business. Per the IT facing business units, EA defining the technology or standards lead to a “one shoe doesn’t fit all” issue. The EA feels that the various IT departments taking the decisions to adopt technologies and standards create a plethora of technologies which are inconsistent with the overall technology roadmap and the effort is duplicated across the IT departments.

Governance: Governing the IT processes, applications, services, and infrastructure during design time to ensure that the standards are followed is a critical aspect to ensure a defect free delivery and operations for an organization. The vertical IT departments tend to rely on their vertical architecture organization unless mandated by the EA organization to conduct the reviews. The EA heavy organization relies on a central review body belonging to the EA organization to conduct the reviews.

Having discussed the conflicts along the above 4 factors, there are various models and patterns available to create and adopt the right EA model for the organization so that the IT can be aligned better to the business and provide maximum value to the business.