How Enterprise Architecture strengthens Agile development

SAFe, scrum, domain-driven design, Spotify… Agile project frameworks & methodologies have made their way into the enterprise, and especially into IT software project management. In this dynamic environment, it’s important for a company to not lose sight of its enterprise architecture as it’s essential to understanding how business transformation initiatives can succeed.

Let’s explore how and why companies need to ensure their enterprise architecture discipline can fuel SAFe and Agile productivity when applying the right methods.

Enterprise Architecture is an enabler for Agile

Enterprise architecture (EA) needs to adapt and evolve to support a company’s ecosystem, in becoming an enabler. It enables an organization to scale its business transformation goals up and down as needed. Scaling down is especially important to helping Agile delivery teams to quickly understand where the enterprise needs to adapt as the market evolves.

In Figure 1 below, you can see this concept in action. It shows how enterprise architecture can interpret the enterprise vision and goals into a roadmap and strategy. Then it can be scaled as needed and embedded into Agile sprints. This ability to change and adapt creates the flexibility necessary to fuel Agile and ensure a successful and aligned output.

Figure 1: Enterprise architecture and Agile-at-scale

An Agile mindset provides many benefits to companies, however it also has some downfalls. This becomes evident when Agile’s suggested improvements may not align with overall business goals. Agile methods are activity-focused in the sense that they focus on executing a project, and in that context, companies need to ensure that programs are executed to ensure they help the entire business achieve sustainable growth. Aligning these results to the company’s strategy is crucial. This is where enterprise architecture discipline shines.

Enterprise architecture is about aligning Agile outputs to strategy

The new and modern enterprise architect needs to be business-outcome-driven. The main outcome he/she needs to look for, to put it simply, is to align Business and IT. An enterprise architect is the person who needs to be in charge of aligning the business architecture (objectives, regulations, capability planning, strategy, value stream mapping) to the IT architecture and portfolios. Being able to understand the way the company’s architecture is working today and whether it will support the business objectives is key, especially for Agile developments to be successful.

An enterprise architect plays a key a role in aligning the enterprise roadmap(s) to the IT roadmap(s) by answering a crucial question: Will we be able to adapt quickly enough to meet our market in time?

Intentional architecture is key to reconciling Agile design

Agile Development projects create emergent designs and architects designing “to be” architecture will not be able to keep up. In that spirit, the concept of intentional architecture becomes key. Intentional architecture represents the intent, or the plan, that the organization would like to achieve. It includes documenting business goals, value streams, capabilities, as well as applications, new technologies, data, and APIs for each phase of the company’s roadmap. An enterprise architect can do this in two steps:

  1. The first objective of an enterprise architect should be to align the business objectives to the intentional architecture. Of course, even the best-laid plans change as an organization adapts to changing market conditions, so an enterprise architect needs to be mindful of how the guardrails need to be adjusted.

  2. The second objective of an enterprise architect is to reconcile the intentional architecture to the new designs created by the Agile Development teams. In this context, the EA team’s reaction often engages “force” to make the Agile Development team and operation follow their vision. However, this is the exact opposite of what EA can and should do. Rather, the EA team should focus on reconciling the agile development up to the intentional architecture and understand what the impact is on the strategy, if any.

In this scenario, enterprise architects play a crucial role in ensuring the ability to scale the strategy down to Agile Delivery as well as scaling up the delivery to the enterprise vision. Today’s enterprise architect can now be focused on business outcomes and enable the enterprise to marry business adaptability to project agility. In Figure 2 below, you can see how this comes to life in a walk, jog, run analogy.

Figure 2: Support Agile Developments with intentional architecture at different paces

Enterprise architecture provides strategic direction to development teams

In an Agile environment, the role of enterprise architects is pivotal as it provides the strategic direction to development teams. Without this intentional architecture, emergent design alone cannot handle the complexity of large-scale system development.

Using HOPEX companies can manage comprehensive enterprise architecture disciplines within one repository and connect business architecture, solution architecture, IT & technology architecture, as well as portfolio management, and GRC. This single source of truth helps organizations break down silos, avoid rework, and ensure the Agile development team’s outputs are immediately viable and successful.

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(See the full article here: Mega)

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