The Architectural Enterprise: financially lead capability development Reply


There is one truism in the world of enterprise architecture, namely:  do not focus on developing the architecture first.  In other words, enterprises should focus on developing capability and not architecture.  Focusing on architecture can only ever gild the lilly. To focus on architecture first is to focus on systems first and not value.  To focus on architecture first is to focus on structures first rather than functions.

Enterprise architecture programs have received poor reviews in the past few years and most even struggle to leave the comfortable boundaries of the all-too-familiar systems rationalisation through data model interoperability.

Architecture, however, should not be the focus.  The focus should be value and the means to achieve this should be through organisational capability.

This bog is Part I in how to develop a comprehensive enterprise architecture program within an organisation, namely:  developing a capability portfolio.

STEP 1:  Value.

The best way to define value in an organisation or department is through variance analysis (so long as this is performed well and to at least 3 degrees of depth) in the relevant business unit.  In the Architectural Enterprise (the fictional enterprise built and run on EA guidelines) the specific variance would be referred to an Architectural Council to ensure that the variance was cross-referenced for dependencies and all the ‘noise’ was stripped away, i.e. personnel as opposed to role issues. The architectural team can now focus on supporting the process, service delivery or value activities.

Alliteratively, if the EA program needs to start more stealthily, then the ICT department may begin by cost-modelling the ICT budget.  The financial model needs to include 3-point estimates for all relevant costs.  Importantly, the higher bound is what the organisation does pay, the middle bound is what they should pay, and the lower bound (the 10% CI) is what they could pay.  This forces the team to not only to prep the model with uncertainty (for later simulation) but also to make sure that realistic stretch targets are imposed for projected cost reductions.

Once the model is run through a deep sensitivity analysis the team can then strip out all non-capability cost drivers, such as internal transfers, tax liabilities, interest and depreciation etc.

STEP 2:  Capability.

What is left are the most sensitive capability cost drivers.  The team now needs to make sure they focus on what is valuable and not just what is sensitive.  This is critical to ensure that the team doesn’t focus on low impact back-office ICT enabled capability but rather on high-impact, high-value operational capability.  The key is to ensure that an accurate value chain is used.

The best way to achieve an accurate value chain is to (a) develop a generic value chain based on industry baselines and then, (b) refine it using the firm’s consolidated financial returns.  The team should work with a management accountant to allocate costs amongst the various primary and supporting functions.  This will highlight exactly where the firm (i) derives its primary value, and (ii) along which lines it is differentiated.

Once the team understands these financial value-drivers and competitive subtleties they can now calibrate the capability-cost drivers with the value chain.

STEP 3:  Architecture.

Once the team has a short list of sensitive areas which are both architecturally weak and financially valuable they can then set about increasing the capability within defined parameters.

To do this, the team needs to create a parameterised architecture.  The architectural model has two facets: (a) it has capability components enabling it to encompass the dependencies of the area the team is focusing on, and (b) the capability components have attached values.

Determining values for model is oftentimes difficult.  Not all components of capability have easily defined financial parameters.  What value does the team place on information?  on processes? on services or even on task functions in certain roles?  Although this will be the subject of another blog the intangible aspects of capability must all affect the 100% of financial value.  For instance, a Role filled to 80% (due to shortfalls in the person filling the role) will not necessarily mean that the capability runs at 80%.  For a good set of capability coefficients the team can use the COSYSMO model elements. These coefficients allow the team to see how the overall cost is varied by differences in organisational capability.

Once the architectural model is built the team can adjust the parameters so that they achieve both the cost that they could deliver whilst making sure that they are also increasing overall capability, i.e. process output, software integration, role utilisation etc.

Whereas standard cost reduction programs reduce cost without accounting for the wider capability sensitivities, this methodology is able to model a capability financially yet cognisant of how intangible aspects support its overall enterprise value.


Through this method the team is not only able to identify the areas requiring attention but they are also able to ensure that that costs are reduced without compromising overall business capability.  Moreover, the team will be able to do this whilst engaging with both the technical and the financial teams.

Most importantly, by focusing on capability and not architecture the organisation can hone in on not just on the hot-spots – because their will be too many to count – but on the valuable hot-spots.

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