by Daniel Lambert
Enterprise architecture can be very complementary to the success of agile programs and projects by increasing the odds of reaching your targeted business outcomes. Here is how this can be done.
Limited Success Rate of Digital Transformation – Still Today
Too many projects initiated by traditional businesses fail to deliver meaningful business outcomes in a reasonable time frame. Rapid and continuous innovative changes and more informed customers are pressing firms to have more fluid business strategies. As I have pointed out in my book “Practical Guide to Agile Strategy Execution: Design, Architect, Prioritize, and Deliver your Corporate Future Successfully”, time to execution is now shorter and requires that most traditional businesses become more agile and learn to rely less on the siloed-organizational structure to implement their strategy. Capital needs to be reallocated more toward customer-driven initiatives and projects.
In a 2018 Gartner survey, it was discovered that “90% of corporate leaders view digital as a top priority”, and that yet “83% of leaders struggle to make significant progress on digital transformation.” Even more recently, the Boston Consulting Group mentioned that still “75% of transformation efforts fall short of their targets in terms of value generated, timing, or both.”
Root Causes of Large-Scale Change Failures
This article entitled “Agile Transformation Management: Managing Large-Scale Change in a Fast-Changing World” explains very well the three common root causes for the frequent failure of large business transformation initiatives to deliver on their promises.
First, the leaders of each business transformation initiatives or portfolios lack transparency between each other. They do not have a broad view of the vision and strategies of their organization and are unable to prioritize between all their initiatives and sub-initiatives those that really matter and those that can wait. They end up having too many programs and projects for the resources allocated to them.
Second, traditional transformation management methods drive programs into long delivery cycles and make it impossible to keep up with agile ways of working. Inflexible multi-year detailed milestones and dependencies planning determined in the early stage of programs are not adequate for agile companies. Very often, targeted end-state of digital transformation endeavors need to shift repeatedly during the delivery and execution of an agile customer-driven enterprise.
Third, top management sponsoring digital transformation initiatives get too often disengaged with time and tend to delegate their key responsibilities to their program/project manager, whom should be responsible for planning, alignment, and problem resolution, but usually lacks a deep understanding of the always evolving strategies of the organization.
In an article entitled “Understanding Fake Agile”, three crucial rules need to be followed by the management of an agile enterprise to be successful while improving the business and delivering new products, as shown here:
- the Law of the Customer—a business needs to be obsessed with delivering value foremost to customers.
- the Law of a Small Team—a belief that delivery and execution efforts are best carried out by small and self-organizing teams, working in short cycles, and focused on delivering value to customers.
- the Law of the Ecosystem—a continuing effort to obliterate bureaucracy, siloes, and top-down hierarchy so that the firm operates as an interacting ecosystem of self-organizing teams focused on working together to deliver value to customers.
Managing Large-Scale Initiatives in a Fast-Changing World with Agility
Managing large-scale initiatives or projects in a fast-changing world with agility requires two essential components. First, the management of portfolios needs to be always on and tackle digital transformation initiatives from ideas to benefit realization in a structured, measurable, and rigorous approach way. Program execution should never start before objectives and strategies have been divulged clearly by management. Second, program planning requires frequent recalibration of their plan to adapt to contextual changes that may occur during the delivery of the program.
Incorporating architecture early on at the planning stage of their digital transformation initiatives, portfolios, and programs can usually provide an efficient bridge between business stakeholders and agile delivery teams to increase the success of their endeavors. Focused business and enterprise architecture allow corporations to prioritize better at the initiative, portfolio and program planning level, cut time lost building relevant epics and user stories of each program and project, and finally lower significantly the number of sprints necessary to complete their projects.
Enterprise Architecture Very Complementary to Agile Projects
As suggested in this article entitled “Going Agile - The Role of the Enterprise Architect”, enterprise architects need to be involved in the planning process, implementation processes, in the implementation of regular check-ups, and in the correction of any deviation of agile programs and projects. Agile approaches and enterprise architecture do not need to be exclusive, as pointed out by the Open Group: “Both Lean and EA can make organizations more Agile, but work from a different, complementary perspective. By synergizing both EA and Lean knowledge, techniques, and people, many organizations are exploiting the strengths of both approaches.” Enterprise Architecture and agile approaches can be very complementary at various dimensions, as shown in Figure 1 above.
1. The Strategic and Tactical Dimension
Most serious companies will elaborate long term strategies at the upper management level. Too often they fail to layout their corresponding goals, which are more precise in quantity and in time and require a higher level of commitment. Furthermore, many companies may not revise their strategies and tactics at a high enough frequency. Enterprise architects can assist management in disseminating and translating these strategies at a higher frequency into tactics at lower levels and horizontally everywhere in their organization. Enterprise architects can also assist management in establishing corresponding realistic goals and objectives for all enumerated strategies and tactics. Enterprise architects can also be instrumental in adjusting objectives and business outcomes of agile programs and projects as the organization’s evolving ecosystem requires it.
Enterprise architects can also bridge business strategies and tactics into corresponding IT strategies and tactics, as mentioned in this article entitled “Implement Agile IT Strategic Planning with Enterprise Architecture” written by the Open Group: “Enterprise Architecture (EA) is the key to this foundation as it helps companies improve their IT Strategic Planning by helping companies precisely see and understand how IT systems support business objectives. (…) Enterprise Architecture helps IT leaders create an agile IT strategic plan by tightening IT systems to the business strategy and quickly assessing the impact of a business change on the IT landscape. The relevant IT projects are easily identified by performing a gap analysis between the current and the future IT landscape that is linked to business objectives.”
2. The Finance and Priority Determination Dimension
Using customer-driven value streams and measured business capabilities is a very objective and convenient way of defining the priority levels of agile programs and projects. Value streams and capabilities are far more stable in time than org charts, processes, products, or applications. Used properly starting with customer journeys, as indicated in this article entitled “Architecting and Delivering Optimal Customer Journeys”, they can ensure that the frequently revised determination of human and financial resources allocated to agile programs and projects stay in sync with the evolving strategies and goals of a customer-driven organization.
3. The Program and Project Planning Delivery Dimension
The enterprise architect’s contribution to agile approaches can be significant also at the delivery and execution level. Using elements for their enterprise architecture model, they can accelerate the definition of requirements, epics, and user stories that are necessary to the delivered programs, projects, and sprints. Furthermore, in large agile programs, there will frequently be redundant projects and sub-projects. Enterprise architects have the necessary expertise to detect them often allowing a quicker delivery and higher resource allocation to non-duplicated projects.
4. The Program and Project Delivery and Implementation Regular Check-Ups Dimension
During the agile program and project delivery and implementation, enterprise architects should get involved with its ecosystem to ensure that regular check-ups from key members of the agile delivery team are made. Product managers need to signal what should be done next. System architects need to indicate how the project or sub-project can be done optimally. Release Train Engineers need to indicate what is the best way to deliver the project or sub-project. Finally, business owners need to commit to the desired business outcome and corresponding objective the agile project or sub-project needs to be aligned to.
5. The Measurement of Success Dimension
Your recently developed software application may be performing perfectly according to specs and be available 99.99% of the time. You may have delivered your agile program and projects on time and within budget, and yet you may have failed at reaching your business outcomes, and the corresponding business capability to your program or project is still performing at levels that are too low. In such cases, enterprise architects can be very instrumental in finding out what when wrong and to find appropriate ways to make sure that it happens less often. Ideally, implicating your enterprise architects early on at the planning level of your agile programs and projects will significantly lower the possibility that business outcomes associated with an agile program or projects are not reached.
Architecture and SAFe®
Most organizations view their digital transformation as a top priority. Many are full speed ahead with their digital transformation often using SAFe® to deliver their information technology projects, as described in this article entitled “Fine Tuning SAFe® with Architecture”. Many are finding out that incorporating business architects and enterprise architects in their team increases the probability of reaching the business outcomes of agile programs and projects. In SAFe®, they are inclined to proceed with “agile architecture”.
“Agile Architecture is a set of values, practices, and collaborations that support the active, evolutionary design and architecture of a system. This approach embraces the DevOps mindset, allowing the architecture of a system to evolve continuously over time, while simultaneously supporting the needs of current users. It avoids the overhead and delays associated with the start-stop-start nature and large-scale redesign inherent with phase-gate processes and Big Up-Front Design (BUFD).”
To support the elaboration of value stages and value stream through the SAFe® Continuous Delivery Pipeline, agile architecture will evolve over time while supporting the needs of the clients of the organization, trying to avoid overhead and delays associated with traditional methods. Agile architecture will also ensure that the delivery system always runs lowering as much as possible setup times, Agile architecture will put efforts in balancing emergent design into the delivered program or project. Finally, agile architecture will take the selected system’s view across the full value stream that needs to be delivered.
Enterprise architects will especially be involved across value streams and value stages. As for solution architect, they will get more involved across all involved systems that deliver a value stream. Finally, the system architect will focus on a single system or software application.
The Benefits of Using Architecture in Large-Scale Digital Transformation Projects
By incorporating business and enterprise architecture into your agile programs and projects will allow you to scale more successfully. Amalgamating architecture to agile programs and project has seven tangible benefits, as shown in Figure 2 above:
- 1. Enterprise architecture will increase the alignment of your agile programs and project to the strategies and tactics everywhere in your enterprise.
- 2. Enterprise architecture will enable us to identify more easily the value streams and capabilities that matter the most and require more funding.
- 3. Enterprise architecture will allow agile teams to plan and manage optimally the required capacity and resources to deliver their programs and projects.
- 4. Enterprise architecture will allow agile teams to understand what other agile teams are doing to make sure not to duplicate projects.
5. With an enterprise architecture model, agile teams have a better enterprise view and can define their epics and user stories much more accurately and quickly to minimize the risk of failure.
- 6. By sharing relevant strategic enterprise architecture information to agile teams, employee engagement will increase.
7. Enterprise architecture will finally contribute to elaborate real-time reporting and analytics to agile teams to assist and fine-tune decision making.
As shown in this whitepaper, well-adjusted enterprise architecture practices can prove to be very complementary to the success of agile programs and projects by improving the likelihood of achieving targeted business outcomes of your customer-driven organization.
 Book entitled “Practical Guide to Agile Strategy Execution: Design, Architect, Prioritize, and Deliver your Corporate Future Successfully” written by Daniel Lambert on February 18, 2020.
 Two short extracts from the Gartner Executive Guidance Q3 2018 Edition entitled “Digital Dexterity at Work”.
 Quote from this article entitled “How to Get Agile Right” published on the Boston Consulting Group website.
 Article entitled “Agile Transformation Management: Managing Large-Scale Change in a Fast-Changing World” written by Jaap Backx, Tapio Schrey, Huib Kurstjens, Ana Olgiati, and Reinhard Messenböck on the Boston Consulting Group website on January 10, 2019.
 Article entitled “Understanding Fake Agile” written by Steve Denning on Forbes’s website on May 23, 2019.
 Article entitled “Going Agile - The Role of the Enterprise Architect” written by Peter Flemming Teunissen Sjoelin on May 16, 2020, in the Enterprise Architecture to the Core website.
 Article entitled “EA and Agile – Not Mutually Exclusive after All!” written by the Open Group on April 28, 2020.
 Article entitled “Implement Agile IT Strategic Planning with Enterprise Architecture” written by Gabriel Gomane on the Open Group website on October 10, 2019.
 Whitepaper entitled “Architecting and Delivering Optimal Customer Journeys” written by Daniel Lambert on February 4, 2019, on the IRIS Business Architect website.
 Article entitled “Fine Tuning SAFe® with Architecture” written by Daniel Lambert on March 18, 2019, on the IRIS Business Architect website.
 Extract from the “Agile Architecture in SAFe” webpage on the Scaled Agile, Inc. website.