business and IT alignment


The Social Dimension of Enterprise Architecture in Government

Citizens’ rising demands and expectations concerning both the quality and equality of public services are increasing pressure on the Finnish public administration to improve its efficiency and responsiveness. An enacted act on Information Management Governance in public administration declares Enterprise Architecture (abbreviated EA) as a central tool for developing administration’s services. EA is seen as a strategic management tool standardising the development of administration and exploitation of Information and Communication Technologies (abbreviated ICT). The new act demands agencies to apply EA yet there exists relatively limited knowledge and experience of the concept. Since EA is an abstract and complex tool there is great risk that the expectations put on EA are not met. The large numbers of agencies demanded to apply this tool increases the significance of the problem. This article is based on a case study research where the goal was to identify issues of EA use and adoption, to gain understanding why these issues exist and to recommend ways of improving the perceived value of EA. The focus was on the social dimension of alignment since most existing studies have emphasised the technical dimension. The study approaches the problem from the perspective of strategic management and organisational learning. EA is treated as a mechanism and a strategy tool to enable alignment of business and IT. EA adoption presents a learning challenge to an organisation – it has to learn the intellectual content but more importantly, it has to learn how to cooperate and share information across functional, hierarchical and professional boundaries.

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.