Public Services

CIO View: Enterprise architecture makes the difference between delivery or disaster

Published 03 May 2016

Gary Barnett, head of enterprise advisory at Kable-Current Analysis, explains why public sector CIOs must pay attention to enterprise architecture


In the context of a public sector environment where the sourcing pendulum is swinging back to the in-house management and delivery of change projects, the effectiveness of public sector adoption and application of enterprise architecture (EA) will be a key factor in determining success or failure.

Organisations that get their EA programs right will have a much better handle on the complexities of in-sourcing while continuing to deliver an on-going program of change. Those that don't get to grips with it will struggle.

Enterprise architecture promises to deliver transformational benefits to public sector organisations by helping them define a clear vision of the future and by providing a roadmap that describes how they'll get there. When implemented effectively, EA can do exactly that. The key, though, lies in the effective delivery of an EA program.

It's clear that many organisations have embraced the "letter" of EA; in fact the public sector can probably boast the nation's highest density of TOGAF-certified professionals. But there is still plenty of work to do in embracing its spirit. Effective programs are business initiatives; they should begin with the fundamental mission of the organisation and end with a clear description of the route that both the business and the IT function are going to take together in order to successfully deliver that mission.

The biggest challenge that most organisations face in delivering a meaningful enterprise architecture comes out of a predictable tendency to forget that there are non-technical people in the room. Many architects are simply more comfortable talking about the technical subtleties than they are in working with the business to understand how IT is helping to achieve its goals. Whenever an EA succumbs to the temptation to focus on the technology and overlook the overall goal there is a real danger that, no matter how well intentioned, the results will do more harm than good.

As useful test is to look at the presentation that the EA team gives to senior management, and check to see whether a succinct statement of the organisation's mission appears anywhere in the document. If doesn't appear clearly and early, or (worse) if it's absent, then while the work that has been done may well have been useful and valuable, it's not actually "enterprise architecture".


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