6 reasons why Enterprise Architecture is important, even for SMEs

15 October 2019

Geschreven door Jochem Verburg

Many large companies like Thales, Shell and ASML, use Enterprise Architecture (EA) to keep control over the cohesion between the entire organization and the application landscape. Whole teams, and sometimes even departments, are dedicated on Enterprise Architecture. EA is about mapping the whole organization and how it operates: the relations between goals, processes, people, data, applications, assets, etc. This provides insight in how the design of the company contributes to the strategy. This insight makes it easier to analyze the impact of changes, and to execute changes with minimal undesirable side effects thanks to the alignment with the rest of the company.

This sounds very useful, but the adoption of EA in SMEs is still limited. Why? There are multiple frameworks to map all aspects of the company and multiple methods to use EA in practice, like Zachman Framework, ArchiMate and TOGAF. However, these are generally very extensive and require a certain degree of standardization, while flexibility and adaptability are often the competitive edge of SMEs. These rigid approaches also cost a lot of time and knowledge, that SMEs are often not willing to invest.

Why should SMEs still look at Enterprise Architecture? A list of six ways Enterprise Architecture can contribute to the success of SMEs.

  1. A first step in Enterprise Architecture can be made with limited time and resources

    You can benefit from Enterprise Architecture by using a lean approach to map the most important aspects of your company. Most information is already known, either as explicit or tacit knowledge. Therefore, it’s often just a manner of centralizing, restructuring and refining this knowledge.

  2. It helps to align the whole organization

    Enterprise Architecture is a useful way to share the strategy and direction of the company with the whole organization. It clearly shows the way each task contributes to the goals of the organization, and therefore helps employees to prioritize. Additionally, it creates insight in potentially conflicting goals, making it easier to strike the right balance.

  3. It provides a reference frame to examine important changes and decisions

    If you always have an up-to-date, clear and consistent overview of your company, it is easier to analyze the consequences of (proposed) changes. This overview can easily be extended and improved, which makes sure that in important moments, you don’t forget anything. This can be very useful in cases like an ERP-selection or- implementation, where it is important to make sure the new system has a fit with the organization.

  4. EA provides inspiration for process optimization

    By mapping all processes in the organization and the needed information for process execution, you get a lot of insight in the improvement potential. The needed information might for example be automatically generated or exchanged.

  5. It serves as a framework for consistency and validation

    The enterprise architecture of your company provides a reference framework for all important information in the organization. An organization often already has little pieces of Enterprise Architecture. A job description for example, already describes who fulfills which tasks, and a quality management system often contains an overview of all important documents and processes. By centralizing this knowledge, you can avoid inconsistencies and you make it easier to keep all different documents up to date.

  6. EA techniques and frameworks provide a completeness check

    Although you can benefit from Enterprise Architecture most by a centralized and continuous approach, in other cases the available EA techniques and frameworks can also be useful to look at. For example, when making individual blueprints, these can be used to check whether all important aspects have been covered.

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