Creative Synthesis: The “Power of And” to Enhance the Practice of EA

When customizing an EA Framework and associated EA Playbook for an organization, one needs a lot of knowledge about different building blocks that could be used. Such building blocks do not come exclusively from a blend of various EA Frameworks or Playbooks. One should also look at best practices in Portfolio/Program/Project Management and in various Agile Methodologies.

GenAI can be a great collaborator for looking across such methods to gain insights on possible elements to merge to apply in a specific context, including the type and size of an organization, the maturity of its various management and engineering approaches, etc.

I have quickly found some key suggestions for ways to blend EA with Systems Engineering in my conversations with the Bard Google AI, insights provided after clarifying the different main thrusts of these two “disciplines”. One of the main differences is the heavy focus in Systems Engineering on requirements, something done at only a high level in most EA approaches, including TOGAF, DODAF, the FEAF, Zachman, and the Unified Architecture Framework (UAF).

Similarly, when one compares the Operations Research (OR) methodology to general EA ones, there could be some building blocks to bring to EA. As with synthesizing more rigorous requirements management from Systems Engineering with EA’s more general approaches, one could bring in more of the Big Data and Analytics part of OR into a more robust and scientifically grounded EA approach for particularly large and complex initiatives.

One insight from engaging GenAI to explore such possible synergies between major methodologies is that one needs to be continually scanning different approaches. In the process, one could gain knowledge about them to engage in a “serious” conversation about possible synergies. 

Here is one example from one “discussion” with the Bard Google AI, a rather stunning one that was generated in less than 5 seconds:

“Here is a suggested blend of building blocks from the following approaches/disciplines to create a more robust and mature EA practice:

Systems Engineering:

  • Adopt a model-based approach to EA: Use modeling tools to create a comprehensive representation of the enterprise architecture, including the organization’s structure, processes, technologies, and data.
  • Apply systems thinking principles: View the organization as a system of interconnected parts and use systems thinking to identify and analyze relationships between different components of the architecture.
  • Utilize risk management techniques: Proactively identify, assess, and mitigate risks associated with changes to the enterprise architecture.

Operations Research:

  • Leverage optimization techniques: Use optimization algorithms to identify the most efficient and effective ways to design and implement the enterprise architecture.
  • Apply data analytics: Analyze data from various sources to gain insights into the performance of the enterprise architecture and identify opportunities for improvement.
  • Develop simulation models: Use simulation models to test different scenarios and evaluate the impact of changes to the enterprise architecture.

Portfolio/Program/Project Management:

  • Establish a clear governance structure: Define roles, responsibilities, and decision-making processes for EA initiatives.
  • Implement a portfolio management approach: Prioritize and manage EA initiatives across the organization, ensuring alignment with strategic objectives.
  • Adopt a program and project management framework: Use a structured framework to manage the execution of EA initiatives, including planning, execution, monitoring, and evaluation.

Agile Solution Delivery Methods:

  • Embrace an iterative approach: Break down EA initiatives into smaller, manageable increments and deliver value iteratively.
  • Foster collaboration: Encourage collaboration between business and IT stakeholders throughout the EA development process.
  • Adapt to change: Be prepared to adapt the enterprise architecture as the organization’s needs and priorities evolve.

Below is a use case for Digital Transformation across the U.S. Federal Government that considers the above building blocks:

The U.S. Federal Government is facing a number of challenges, including aging IT infrastructure, siloed data, and a need to improve efficiency and agility. Digital transformation can help to address these challenges and modernize government operations.

A robust and mature EA practice can play a critical role in enabling digital transformation across the U.S. Federal Government. By adopting a blended approach that incorporates Systems Engineering, Operations Research, Portfolio/Program/Project Management, and Agile solution delivery methods, EA can help to:

  • Develop a coherent vision for digital transformation: Define the desired outcomes of digital transformation and align EA initiatives with these objectives.
  • Assess the current state of the enterprise architecture: Identify gaps and opportunities for improvement in the organization’s IT infrastructure, processes, and data management practices.
  • Design and implement a roadmap for digital transformation: Prioritize EA initiatives and develop a plan for implementing the necessary changes to the enterprise architecture.
  • Monitor and measure progress: Track the progress of EA initiatives and measure the impact of digital transformation on the organization’s performance.

By leveraging EA to support digital transformation, the U.S. Federal Government can improve its ability to deliver services to citizens, meet the needs of a changing workforce, and adapt to new technologies and challenges.

In addition to the approaches/disciplines mentioned above, EA can also benefit from incorporating other disciplines such as:

  • Change Management: To help organizations manage the cultural and organizational changes associated with implementing a new enterprise architecture.
  • Business Process Reengineering: To identify and improve inefficient or ineffective business processes.
  • Enterprise Security Architecture: To protect the organization’s information assets from cyberattacks.

By taking a holistic approach to EA and incorporating a wide range of disciplines, organizations can create a more robust and mature EA practice that can support their digital transformation goals.”