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Urban Planning & Businesses

Updated: Sep 22, 2023

IT Strategic Planning Model

Enterprise Architecture (EA), in its most basic form, can be likened to the discipline of Urban Planning. Just as Urban Planning is concerned with the planning, regulation, and management of cities and towns with a goal of organizing socio-spatial relations across different scales of government and governance, Enterprise Architecture serves as a roadmap that outlines an organization's structure and operation in order to help it reach its strategic objectives.

The perception often exists that Enterprise Architecture is solely applicable to or useful for larger corporations, potentially due to the resources it demands or the misconception that it's complex and costly. However, if we return to the analogy of Urban Planning, we see that any organization, regardless of size, can gain from having a clear understanding of how to operate efficiently and effectively in order to make well-informed strategic decisions.

How Software and Business Process can drive strategic growth for Small and Medium size Enterprises (SMEs).

The term software is used here in a broad sense to include your email platform, which could be Microsoft Exchange, Outlook, or Gmail, storage solutions like iCloud, Google Drive, or One Cloud, your enterprise software (ERP, CRM, etc.), and potentially different applications you may use to conduct your business. Adding your marketing into the mix, your website, social media, and other external touchpoints are included. It becomes apparent that irrespective of the size of your organization, there is a level of complexity that needs to be managed, and this is where Enterprise Architecture can step in to provide structure and guide the evolution of your technology ecosystem.

Enterprise Architecture aids in understanding the business processes across your organization and how technology supports them. It helps identify the software currently in use, how they interconnect with other applications, and how information is stored and transferred between applications.

By documenting these reference points, a business is better equipped when launching a new product, developing a new service, or expanding into a new market, or purchasing new software to address a specific issue. It can refer to these reference points to determine how a new objective or need fits within its current ecosystem. It can decide if it already possesses the necessary technology, what needs to be outsourced, which software is too costly, or if there are redundancies in applications. Answering these questions and documenting the responses can optimize operations and assist in achieving strategic goals.

Where should an SME begin with EA?

When starting with EA, an SME should begin with a Capability Map, an alternative method of visualizing your organization. While org charts provide a snapshot of your organization's structure, they are not comprehensive and are prone to frequent changes due to staff turnover or restructuring. A Capability Map, on the other hand, provides a more fundamental representation of the business, offering a holistic view of all the capabilities required to deliver your product or service to your customer. It includes people, processes, tools, and other physical entities pertinent to your organization's capability. Capability mapping offers many benefits and allows you to create very interesting views of your business (I’ll go into more details in a future blog post).

Capability Mapping Fundamentals:

  • Gain clarity on your entire business capabilities: Gather your business leaders to identify the core business processes of your organization, such as Sales and Marketing, Finance and Accounting, Product Development, and Supply Chain, in order to build a comprehensive Capability Map.

  • Optimize your technology: Begin to overlay the software and technology that support these capabilities. Identify the core platforms and secondary technology you use. Determine where everything connects and whether multiple processes and technology support a single capability. Consider if streamlining these technologies is necessary and whether an existing application could be utilized further to replace another.

  • Get practical: Use the output from a capability map to support your strategic growth by identifying potential gaps in capabilities, what needs to be acquired, or what other capabilities need to be developed to stay competitive.

In conclusion, Enterprise Architecture, akin to Urban Planning, is a strategic tool that helps structure and streamline an organization's processes, software, and technology, irrespective of its size. It provides a comprehensive understanding of the interconnections between business processes and technology. The use of a Capability Map as a fundamental representation of the business underscores the importance of Enterprise Architecture in both operational and strategic decisions. By optimizing technology and identifying capability gaps, organizations can make data-driven decisions, align their IT strategies with business objectives, and effectively navigate their growth, thus ensuring the business is equipped for the future.

Note: A previous version of this blog post was posted on Active Direction's website on September 13th, 2023

References & Interesting Read:

Ross, Jeanne & Weill, Peter & Robertson, David. (2006). Enterprise Architecture as Strategy — Creating a Foundation for Business Execution.

American Productivity and Quality Center - Good framework to help you build your Capability Map:

Capability Mapping Mastery in less than 15 minutes!

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