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Unpacking Enterprise Architecture and Agile

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Leveraging Trade Requirements to Achieve Agile Ambitions

Christopher Armstrong, a well-respected thought leader in enterprise architecture and contributor to industry standards such as TOGAF, UML, ArchiMate, SysML, BIZBOK Guide to Enterprise Architecture, and TM Forum Frameworx, delves into the complex relationship between Enterprise Architecture (EA) and Agile methodologies. He explores how trade standards can assist organizations in achieving their agile ambitions.

Understanding the Connection Between Agile and EA

Many companies, regardless of size, are embracing Agile methods to digitally transform their organizations and stay competitive in the modern market. However, they often struggle to align Enterprise Architecture functions with their agile ambitions. The difficulty lies in the fact that the relationship between Agile and EA needs to be understood in various scenarios.

Utilizing Agile Methods to Develop Your Enterprise Architecture

Agile Development Concept

Traditional enterprise architecture frameworks, like TOGAF’s Architecture Development Method (ADM), are often perceived as long-term efforts that require extensive resources and follow a tedious sequence of actions. However, this perception is changing. Architecture standards organizations, such as The Open Group and the Business Architecture Guild, have been discussing how to leverage Agile methods to develop more flexible architectures that deliver value more quickly.

The latest release of TOGAF, for example, emphasizes the scoping of the architecture effort and the use of a well-governed architecture repository to generate reusable architecture-building blocks and solution-building blocks. These changes allow organizations to rapidly develop lightweight architectures for decision-making purposes and add details as needed to support specific initiatives.

How EA Supports Agile Software Development

Agile Development Methodology

While Agile, SAFe, and DevOps methodologies provide structure to project teams, they do not address the integration of Agile software development into an organization’s operations as a whole. This is where Enterprise Architecture comes into play.

Enterprise Architecture provides a framework of processes, policies, and solution-building blocks that software development teams can use to develop effective and flexible solutions. Successful Agile teams operate with autonomy, but their efforts and decisions must align with the overall goals of the organization to ensure efficient allocation of resources.

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Enterprise Architecture promotes reusability within an organization to avoid duplication of effort, reduce the total cost of ownership of solutions, and enable centralized governance of policies, processes, data, and solutions. It allows Agile software development teams to understand how individual feature requirements fit into the bigger picture of how the organization operates. This enables them to develop solutions that address not only the immediate needs of a project but also the long-term strategic goals of the organization.

Reference architectures, such as those provided by APQC, TM Forum, and the Business Architecture Guild, allow software development teams to leverage industry standards as a starting point for their Agile efforts. This approach enables them to focus on developing solutions that differentiate their companies and utilize common processes, frameworks, and solution components where appropriate.

The Role of Enterprise Architecture in Supporting Enterprise Business Agility

As businesses undergo digital transformation, the relationships between business processes, IT solutions, and operational data become increasingly complex and critical. This complexity introduces a high risk of seemingly minor changes causing widespread impacts across an organization.

Achieving enterprise agility goes beyond simply moving quickly, failing fast, and learning from mistakes. It requires the ability to safely implement changes by understanding their impact on the entire system. Enterprise Architecture serves as a connective layer within processes and solutions, ensuring that changes can be introduced safely. A robust architecture foundation enables improved business process optimization, easier implementation of new IT solutions, and the ability to derive actionable insights for decision-making.

The Right Tools to Support Agile Enterprise Architecture

Various ITSM tools provide a view of the IT environment and operational data. However, they fall short in depicting how processes, systems, and data should work in tandem and adapt over time. This is where Enterprise Architecture comes into play. Modeling tools, such as Sparx Systems Enterprise Architect, allow architects to break down complex system relationships into understandable components and articulate how these components should evolve to achieve organizational goals.

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Agile methodologies have become the new norm for organizations aiming to gain and sustain a competitive advantage in the modern market. By combining Agile with Enterprise Architecture, organizations can enhance their effectiveness by understanding the holistic impact of change, providing a framework for solution development, and enabling efficient allocation of resources to efforts that bring the most value.

Agile and Enterprise Architecture

In recent years, architecture standards organizations, such as The Open Group and the Business Architecture Guild, have focused on leveraging Agile methods to develop more flexible architectures that deliver value to organizations more quickly. To enable software development and other project teams to respond rapidly to feedback and develop Agile solutions that meet evolving organizational needs, a structured framework is necessary. Agile, SAFe, and DevOps methodologies provide structure to individual project teams, but they do not address the integration of Agile software development into an organization’s operations as a whole. This is where Enterprise Architecture (EA) plays a vital role. EA provides a framework of processes, policies, and solution-building blocks that software development teams can leverage to create more effective and flexible solutions. While Agile teams require a high degree of autonomy, it is essential that their efforts and decisions align with the organization’s overall objectives to ensure efficient allocation of resources toward solution options that generate the most significant benefits.

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