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How to Build the Business Case for Enterprise Architecture

How to Build the Business Case for Enterprise Architecture

Building the investment business case for Enterprise Architecture (EA) requires speaking the language of business and delivering quick and ongoing returns. That was the advice from Bodhi Choudhuri, director of Enterprise Architecture at American Express, during Troux’ recent Building the Business Case for EA webinar.

With EA initiatives facing stiff competition for funding and CIOs facing shorter tenures, EA initiatives must deliver value early and often to continue being funded. Choudhuri explained how American Express’ EA team communicates their value to the business as it evolves from a focus on technical architecture to application architecture and finally to a business architecture.

He acknowledged that quantifying the benefits of EA can be hard because the benefits are often “staggered” over time as EA artifacts are used first by the delivery staff and then by the business users who in turn create value for outside customers. “It is sometimes easier” to build a business case, he said, if the EA initiative can be linked to a specific project, or if EA is the only way to accomplish a task such as a gap analysis on an ERP implementation.

Other key recommendations:

  • Speak in terms the business can understand. “When you’re a customer and go shopping for a new car, you would not go and ask `what is the strength of the steel?’” he said “Rather, you would ask `Does this car have a five star crash safety rating?’ EA “is no different,” said Choudhuri. “We need to be able to articulate the value of EA in a language that our customers understand.”
  • Set and report on metrics that helps communicate the value of EA. While value metrics will change as business priorities shift, he said, “one metric everyone can relate to is standardization.” That was a major objective for American Express because the use of non-standard technology raises both procurement and ongoing maintenance costs. “We’re also spending a lot of time with regards to our application portfolio, to make sure we have the best mix of applications and the right capabilities,” he said. That requires metrics for “whether or not we have the right support for the right applications.”
  • Explain not only what should be done, but why it should be done. That helps delivery organizations better understand the value of EA, said Choudhuri. While cost cutting is always important, explaining how EA can solve “hot button” issues like redirecting spending from maintenance to strategic projects, or reducing risk, can really make the business case. Choudhuri, as a matter of fact, defines “the ROI of EA” by how it reduces risk, optimizes the environment, and improves time to market.
  • Don’t police – enable. To deliver the quick EA returns the business demands, Choudhuri recommends to “collaborate and share knowledge with delivery groups and business users”. He also recommends looking for opportunities to “turn on the lights” by showing opportunities for improvement and growth the business would not otherwise have seen.
  • Meet your commitments. “We were very cautious about setting expectations, and when we set an expectation, we do everything in our power to meet those goals,” he said. “As you continue doing that, slowly but surely you build up the rapport with your stakeholders so they continue to support you.”
  • Learn what the business needs. When asked how to overcome resistance to EA, Choudhuri said “resistance seems a little too harsh. I’d probably state it as relevance…the relevance to those organizations that are perhaps not aware of why they need to change or how they need to change. You need to know what are their pain points,” he said and how the EA effort will ease them. “If you can do that, your job is half done.”

“Slowly but surely, the boundary between business and technology is blurring, and (IT) is starting to be seen” as a business function that adds value, said Choudhuri. He predicted EA will give his C-level executives “a tremendous power to predict the future, and then be able to articulate proper plans on how we are going to achieve that vision.”

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