In this series of blog posts, follow along as we revisit Mark Schwartz’s book A Seat at the Table: IT Leadership in the Age of Agility. Five years after its publication, it’s still highly relevant and chock full of tips, tactics, and learnings. Join us as we follow along with Online Marketing Assistant Lucy Softich as she reads through the book for the first time. Make sure you start with the introduction post!
In Chapter 7: Enterprise Architecture, we look at the very structure at the heart of a company. The “EA,” as it is abbreviated throughout this book, is crucial to a successful company and naturally needs to be considered as you apply Agile thinking to everything else.
What is Enterprise Architecture?
I will admit, of the chapters we’ve looked at so far, this one seemed the most abstract to me, probably because an EA isn’t one specific thing. It is the systems that make up the structure of a company, its living, breathing, evolving foundation. However, “evolving” might not be a term typically applied to an EA. Usually, you don’t want your foundation to shift and change, right?
Well, you do when you’re optimizing for an Agile company, that’s for sure.
Mark describes the Enterprise Architecture as a mirror for the company:
In the best of cases, the EA matches the business’s needs; it is an image, in software, of what the business does. Sometimes, it is a distorted mirror… Sometimes, the EA asset is elegent, artistic, and clearly expresses a vision and a style.
I’m reminded of Conway’s Law, mainly as it’s discussed in Team Topologies. Very heavily paraphrased, it posits that systems can only create systems that look like themselves. In other words, your EA’s structure will determine your IT department’s structure, so if you want to make lasting change, you need to address your Enterprise Architecture.
An Unexpected Asset
Mark re-envisions the EA not as a structure trying to impose order on the chaos of an IT department but rather as a crucial asset to the company:
When we add all of our current IT capabilities together, we arrive at an asset that enables the enterprise to earn future revenues and reduce future costs—that is, an assset in the classic economic sense.
When you think of your EA as an asset, it falls to the CIO to maintain that asset. They need to make the critical decisions that maintain the asset and resist standardization in favor of flexibility. They need to keep it agile and focused on business needs.
This will look different in every organization since every organization has different needs, goals, and cultures. Still, it’s as essential as any other part of an Agile company—maybe even the most important.
Jump to a Chapter
Introduction & Chapter 1
Chapter 2: Kept from the Table
Chapter 3: A Nimble Approach to the Table
Chapter 4: Planning
Chapter 5: Requirements
Chapter 6: Transformation
Chapter 7: Enterprise Architecture
Chapter 8: Build Versus Buy
Chapter 9: Governance and Oversight
Chapter 10: Risk
Chapter 11: Quality
Chapter 12: Shadow IT
Chapter 13: The CIO’s Place at the Table & Chapter 14: Exhortation and Table Manners