Nagesh V. Anupindi

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Home Publications Technology Articles Breaking Organizational Silos using Enterprise Architecture

Breaking Organizational Silos using Enterprise Architecture

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If done right, Enterprise Architecture (EA) can be valued beyond providing a list of programming standards, drawing few class diagrams for application development, or defining consistent configurations for server builds. It can be used to break the barriers that are groomed by the traditional departments within an Information Technology (IT) organization. Using the Galbraith’s Star model, this article describes the function of the EA department within an IT and how an EA department can proactively plan to break the barriers of silos to establish EA’s value-proposition using my experiences at large organizations such as Qwest Communications, J.D.Edwards, and Xcel Energy.

Balanced Organization

IT Organizational Design
Depending on the size of the organization and the nature of the business, an IT organization is often headed by a CIO and/or CTO. A traditional IT organization has its roots to the core functions of an IT such as Infrastructure, Data Centers, Desk-side & Application Support, Application/ System Development, Cyber Security, and Financial Governance. For a CIO to effectively service these IT functions, the structure of an IT organization is more than just the structure of people. No doubt that the function of IT can be complex but, the structure of the organization needs to be simple enough to clearly delineate the lines of responsibility by IT functions. This delineation helps in achieving operational excellence with mid-level managers and their technical staff who work in day-to-day activities.

When designing an IT organization, the team that reports to a CIO should be, collectively, well balanced with industry knowledge, organizational knowledge, and technical knowledge. Similarly, EA teams should consist of a balanced collective knowledge to ensure that they are positioned to break the barriers of silos. It should consist a team that can act as liaisons to work with the business side of the organization (outside IT). Those who have been more than five years with IT will have extensive systems knowledge. Rest of the team should have deeper technical knowledge in specialized areas to help set enterprise-wide technical direction.

Organizational Model & Role of EA
The “Organizational Design” of an IT, knowingly or unknowingly, follows the well-known Galbraith’s Star model without an exception. An EA department within an IT needs to pursue influencing all the five factors of the Galbraith’s Star model, viz., Strategy, Structure, Business Processes & Lateral Links, Human Resource Management, and Reward System.

Galbraith's Star Model

1. STRATEGY
Different IT organizations have different strategies based on their industry, financial position, technology maturity, and prior M&As. However, the new sets of Strategies for IT are no longer limited to traditional objectives such as cost optimization or operational excellence. They started expanding into Business Transformation as well as Business Innovation. Today’s CIOs are closely aligned with Business Leaders of their organization to understand the nature of the business and to impact the end-customers of the organization. To provide the necessary ammunition for these CIOs to be innovative and transformative, the EA organization needs to provide technology directions that can bridge between past IT investments and the future technology spend.

Financial Governance
One of the core functions within IT is the financial governance. It focuses on annual budgeting and planning of capital investments for corporate-wide technical environment. Every IT organization that I knew has gone through this exercise. But, only few such planning sessions are influenced by overall IT Strategy. An EA team must participate in the annual planning sessions without which it is next to impossible to bridge the silo-ed IT departments.

During planning sessions, when EA teams are able to readily provide details on application portfolio (as-is) as well as the future needs for emerging technologies (to-be), they position themselves very well as the bridge between teams such as infrastructure and application development team. Architecture’s ability to facilitate the need for integration and standardization can significantly influence the investment planning and help alleviate pains for the rest of the IT departments.

Service Oriented Architecture (SOA)
In these days, the acronym SOA is inevitable in most technology focused articles. Though the concept of the SOA seems to be more technical and helping to establish a structure around technology investments, it has deeper impacts within the IT organization . Creating the real-time business with on-demand flexibility to the functional business has started changing the organizational structure of IT to look into the philosophies advocated by SOA. However, the EA department within the IT organization needs to take the SOA implementation to the Enterprise Component Business Architecture; this is well beyond connecting few systems with services. By providing such business architecture, EA can create platform for IT to extend its strategy that impacts rest of the organization.

2. STRUCTURE
Creating an appropriate structure of an IT organization is one of the key tasks for a CIO. It should be carefully planned to self-execute the mundane tasks and leave enough time for CIO to be able socialize with business side of the organization. The Office of CIO (OCIO) must consist of IT Governance to understand and manage the portfolio of investments, Repeatable IT Processes for smooth flow of operational tasks, clear lines of project accountability for effective delivery, and consistent standards for current and emerging technologies. Key success to run an efficient OCIO is delegation, in other words, confident enough to “letting it run by itself.”

Structure of Enterprise Architecture

An EA team should focus on standardizing their design deliverables for project architecture to bridge the governance, project delivery, and operational tasks. From governance perspective, every project needs to be scrutinized by EA to ensure that the architecture fits within the existing environment but leaps with emerging technologies. From project delivery perspective, the design deliverables need to be clear and concise so that the implementation teams can carry forward with the detail designs. Finally, from operational perspective, EA’s design needs to carefully recommend technologies that can be supported using resources that are already onboard. In rare situations, designs may need newer skills which should be highlighted throughout the design. By having such rigor of EA’s involvement in projects, it can bring down the traditional barriers observed between governance, project delivery, and operations.

3. BUSINESS PROCESSES & LATERAL LINKS
For building an effective IT organization, it is key to create networks of teams, to establish processes for inter-operational dynamics, to integrate their roles, and to define how their roles laterally impact rest of the business. An EA team can help build vehicles for rest of the IT by providing transparency of the technology environment and helping them become knowledge workers.

With many corporate environments leaning towards purchased software and outsourced models, creating blueprints for the technology environment does not need to go to the levels of detailed architecture such as components and data-models. These corporations can benefit with simple and accurate facts about their systems & applications, hosted-servers, and support personnel, and interfaces. An EA team can take up the task of creating system portfolio management that can effectively architect Commercial Off-The-Shelf (COTS) products and their integration . The diagram in this section shows a simplified model of highly useful information that can be built by EA team. Several tools such as Troux’s MetaVerse and TeleLogic / IBM’s System Architect are available that can help build this portfolio to make a big impact between Infrastructure, Data Centers, and Application Development teams within IT.

Systems Portfolio

4. HUMAN RESOURCE MANAGEMENT
Building the necessary and sufficient technical skills in and outsourced or off-shored environments has been a challenge for many CIOs. The debate between the cost of retaining an employee versus the cost of a skilled contractor walking out of the door has been going on for more than a decade. When an EA team builds technology directions for several facets of IT, the necessary technical competencies to be fulfilled by the IT staff becomes apparent. In my experience, we found more than a list of 90 technology directions (for example, VoIP, Server Configuration, Collaboration, and Intranet) that seem to sufficiently define most of the technology environments. These technology directions are usually follow a customized Reference Technology Architecture for an organization.

5. REWARD SYSTEM
Though the reward system for an IT employee / contractor is heavily dependent upon the industry and location of the organization, it is also based on the technological foundation of the IT environment. An EA team should consider not just the best technology but also pursue technologies that have lower operational costs. When EA teams pay attention to these costs, it enables the operations teams to put forward proposals for emerging technologies that can be approved through governance.

Conclusion
Though many Enterprise Architecture organizations suffer through a perception that they are a cost center that focuses purely on technology without adding any fiscal benefits to an IT organization, this article presents several techniques that can be used to bridge other departments within IT and in turn, benefit EA team by turning around its image with IT.

About the Author
Nagesh V. Anupindi, PhD is the Chief Architect and Director of Architecture at Xcel Energy. At Xcel Energy, he oversees Enterprise Architects that provide transparency into IT System portfolio, technology directions, project architecture, organizational alignment, and fiscal benefits. Prior to Xcel Energy, Nagesh has experience serving Fortune 500 clients such as J.D. Edwards, Great West Life, Bureau of Reclamation, and ProCard. He received a Ph.D. in Computer Engineering from the Univ. of Rhode Island, an M.S. in Digital Signal Processing from Indian Institute of Technology, Chennai, and a B. Engg. in Electronics & Telecommunications from Osmania University. Nagesh was the recipient of the 2006 Thomas Edison Award through Xcel Energy, recipient of 2005 CIO Excellence Award, and an IEEE Member. He can be reached at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .