Message of the Month: Achieving EA Breakthroughs — A Marathon Rather than a Sprint

Dr. Pallab Saha, The Open Group’s Chief Architect for Asia and primary architect of India’s Enterprise Architecture Framework (IndEA), recently shared the following information:

“In a very significant development, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has just released the “Master Direction on Information Technology Governance, Risk, Controls and Assurance Practices”. This mandates all regulated entities (i.e. public and private sector banks, small finance banks, payment banks, NBFCs, credit information companies, and financial institutions) to adopt a standard enterprise architecture framework or methodology … Coming from the central bank (and the regulator) this will now make architecture-based approaches a norm in the entire banking industry – a backbone of the economy. This is a game-changer.”  

There are a few very significant items in this announcement that merit special attention if we are really looking at Achieving EA Breakthroughs:

1. EA must be mandated in a governmental context or top-down driven in any organization for EA to be sponsored, established, and matured.

2.  A mandate for EA is best encapsulated in a program that more directly indicates what areas EA will be a part of. In the above example, EA is a part of the “Master Direction on Information Technology, Governance, Risk, Controls and Assurance Practices” for the entire banking industry. The value of an emphasis on all 5 of the items in the title is very straightforward. Notice that EA itself is not mentioned in the name of the mandate. Certainly one reason could be that there could be too many interpretations of what a “Master Direction on Enterprise Architecture” would mean, including what areas of concern would be included in it. 

3. EA is, though, specifically called out in the mandate, requiring that all such regulated entities “adopt a standard enterprise architecture framework or methodology.” 

However, the entire mandate can be meaningless and even chaotic given how the institutions interpret what would qualify as “a standard enterprise architecture framework or methodology.” Since India has an overarching EA Framework (IndEA), one can infer that the mandate is referring to that, even though it is not specifically called out. Even if IndEA is the presumed best “standard” for Indian Banks, it is a generic framework and not directed at any specific sector. 

Therefore, for the mandate to be efficiently and effectively operationalized, it would be best if an agreed upon framework specifically tailored for Indian banks were first developed and rolled out. The mandate doesn’t require this critical prerequisite.

In short, just requiring EA can be an invitation to chaos if each bank uses a different EA approach. This is one of the major challenges of EA, that it is often presented and understood as something generic, whereas it can only succeed if it is specifically tailored for the targeted context. Unfortunately, no “standard enterprise architecture framework or methodology” even exists. TOGAF, DODAF, Saudi Arabia’s NORA, and the Unified Architecture Framework are necessarily described for a generic organization. One method for banking writ large is the Banking Industry Architecture Network (BIAN), but it is not an overall EA standard, nor is it tailored for India’s banking sector.

In conclusion, to achieve EA breakthroughs, top-down sponsorship and support is essential. However, without also investing in and requiring an appropriately customized EA approach, success is unlikely. This is where frustration almost always occurs when organizations commit to a framework such as TOGAF. Excellent training on TOGAF (which cannot be assured without due diligence) can at best set the stage for laying out the imperatives of developing and operationalizing a customized framework for the organization, one designed to support enhanced EA maturity and value over time in an agile and adaptable way. In other words, even TOGAF is just a springboard for moving toward the establishment of an EA method for an organization. 

Therefore, “Achieving EA Breakthroughs” requires much more investment for the customized EA playbook required. With this in mind, EA Principals strongly recommends that organizations consider this prerequisite when pursuing EA. An EA approach is not just the use of a standard taxonomy or metamodel, such as is offered by ArchiMate, but of a highly tailored set of practical prescriptions for EA across the various life cycles or value streams for that organization. Even if a framework is ultimately created for that organization’s sector, further customization would nonetheless still be required. The “game changer” Dr. Saha refers to above could eventually be just that, but much would need to be done for EA to really be the core element for enhanced banking.

Gartner’s VP Analyst for EA, Philip Allega, once explicitly stated that an organization should not spend more than 30 minutes in reviewing EA frameworks since a customized approach would ultimately be needed. However, I strongly believe that an objective and intensive education in EA frameworks can be one of the best building blocks for arriving at an approach appropriate for any given organization. This is one reason why EA Principals includes the discussion of many other EA frameworks when providing EA training and consulting — there is a lot of building blocks that could be reused from such wide-ranging exposure versus creating an approach from a tabula rasa.

Authored by Dr. Steve Else, Chief Architect & Principal Instructor