2011

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Better Business-IT Alignment Through Enterprise Architecture: An Actor-Network Theory Perspective

Enterprise architecture has attracted the attention of information systems (IS) academics as well as information technology (IT) and business professionals. While enterprise architecture has been proposed as a solution to the business-IT alignment problem, there is little theoretical basis that would explain how enterprise architecture work can lead to better alignment. Here we draw on the Actor-Network Theory (ANT) to highlight the role of enterprise architecture in achieving and sustaining such alignment. Specifically, we argue that enterprise architecture work helps to achieve agreement and thus alignment of the interests of internal actors within the context of enterprise interests and inscribes such agreement into architectural artifacts. Such artifacts can then be used in negotiations with external parties, such as IT vendors, thereby protecting the interests of the enterprise. Enterprise architecture work is also likely to reduce the likelihood of members of the enterprise, such as IT staff, from forming close ties with external parties, such as IT solution vendors, at the expense of the interests of the enterprise. We argue that this would result in stronger business-IT alignment. We conclude by highlighting two important goals of enterprise architecture as viewed through the ANT lens: (1) to help achieve an alignment of interests within the enterprise, and (2) to serve as a tool for protecting the interests of the enterprise in internal and external negotiations. These in turn point to the importance of the soft skills of enterprise architects and the need for clear and readily understandable enterprise architecture artifacts.

The Frugal Enterprise Architect

In the last three years we have seen a significant focus placed on the practice of enterprise architecture, its importance to the strategic forward momentum of an organization, and the need to master the methodology, mechanics, and traceable metrics attached to the program. With books, magazine articles, and white papers highlighting the need to properly structure and invest appropriately in enterprise architecture, fledgling programs with modest budgets struggle to apply these broad but often considered „best practice‟ recommendations. Depending on corporate culture and tolerance for organizational change, senior management teams may be the toughest to convince of the value of a newer enterprise architecture program when, from their perspective, the wheels of the organization have turned smoothly for years. Lead architects with limited program budgets will need to be creative and extremely careful in their approach to developing an enterprise architecture program, but there are ways to achieve success as a frugal enterprise architect.

Auditing the Implementation of Enterprise Architecture at the Federal Railroad Administration

After several years of work, implementing enterprise architecture in the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA – a part of the US Dept. of Transportation), in Fall 2009, attention was turned to the question: How to efficiently yet comprehensively audit their implementation of enterprise architecture, to identify strengths, weaknesses, and areas for future improvement? At that time, US agencies such as OMB and GAO had issued guides for reviewing (or evaluating, appraising, or auditing) government agency implementations of enterprise architecture, but these guides were not completely consistent with one another. A new, harmonizing version was being developed by GAO and was released in August 2010, containing the Enterprise Architecture Management Maturity Framework, Version 2.0 (EAMMF 2.0). This provides a management maturity framework which can permit an organization to achieve increasingly higher states of enterprise architecture management maturity. This article presents a pilot test project developed and conducted within the FRA, using the new EAMMF 2.0 elements and an audit methodology drawn loosely from the Software Engineering Institute’s Capability Maturity Model Integration (CMMI®) models and its companion Standard CMMI Appraisal Method for Process Improvement (SCAMPI) SM appraisal methods. The audit methodology proved to be an efficient way to assess FRA’s efforts in enterprise architecture. Findings also show that FRA’s implementation of enterprise architecture reflects very high enterprise architecture management maturity, suggesting that FRA has positioned itself well to support future initiatives such as the US development of high- speed rail and to continue to coordinate with its many constituencies including the railroad industry, other federal agencies, state and local government railroad agencies, and the public-at-large, to realize the benefits of enterprise architecture, all while dealing with rapid change, value, agility, standards, risk, and transformation.