Two weeks ago, while exchanging views on business with a CIO of a medium sized enterprise, he put the question of IT architecture governement on the table. What benefit could he expect by setting up a new process, consuming resources and budget ? Is it really necessary when the project backlog overwhelms his IT teams ? For sure, architects are useful within projects, but keeping them outside with the result of adding burden to project plans is not an attractive option. He set his first priority not to be Cobit or ITIL compliant, but to be really aligned with enterprise business.
As an experienced consultant, I was thrilling about throwing out good practice for a short term view. But, was my speaker right after all ?
For him, the value of governing architecture depends on what the enterprise is able to obtain in return. Indeed, when IT Division is scattered into application teams which manage change within their domain, settling transverse processes may appears to increase dependencies and risks.

According to the enterprise information system maturity, there is an appropriate level of architecture governance.

Level one
Medium sized enterprise with Commercial off the shelves for accounting, payroll, sales and production management. Several sales points and production plants. Each department focus on its own process, and exchange files with others when necessary.
Focus : Technical architecture for streamlining hardware use and purchase

Level two
The same medium sized entreprise which would like to tie its COTS with middleware like a Message Oriented Middleware or an automated file transfer for improving back-office and statistics. Each department would like to have feedback on its performance more quickly.
Focus : application architecture for enabling exchange capabilities

Level three
The same medium sized enterprise which would like to supervise customers from sales to delivery across points of sales and production plants. For example with business intelligence capabilities.
Focus : information architecture for sharing information meaning across different COTS

Level four
The same medium sized enterprise which would like to run business as processes
Focus : Business architecture for supporting, improving and automating business processes

Often, during their history, companies go through each of these levels. Skipping to next level requires to improve IT and IS management skills. Jumping 2 levels requires a true transformation of IT processes. Frequently blue chips are at level four and have mature IT governance processes, but paying attention to SME information system maturity allows to identify the appropriate level of Architecture governance and being successful in setting it up.

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