Enterprise Architecture Body of Knowledge
Governance

Governance – Corporate: Organizational Governance as a Context for EA Governance

Author: Con Kenny

An enterprise architect should consider organizational governance as a driving factor in defining EA governance. Too often EA governance is detached from organizational governance, and this failing can result in the EA being perceived as not relevant or useful. Building on existing organizational governance is essential to the success of both the enterprise architect and the enterprise architecture (EA) because effective governance is focused on making decisions and delivering information for the use of decision-makers. This is one certain way for the EA to create value. Existing organizational governance processes show what decisions are important and what kinds of information might be valuable to decision-makers. However, establishing governance is very difficult.

The most important consideration is the current organizational governance – its decision rights, source of authority, participants, rules, processes, artifacts, and track record. The enterprise architect needs to identify which decisions are made through organizational governance. In most organizations major resource decisions are governed by organizational processes because of the importance of these decisions and the complexity of the decision processes. The organizational budget and purchasing/acquisitions processes support two major types of resource decisions, and all but the smallest organizations have documented these decision processes.

The enterprise architect should determine the source(s) of authority for organizational governance. In corporations, the charter is a good place to start, and in government, the authorizing legislation is the original source of authority. The organizational structure, hierarchy, and decision rights are defined at a high level in the source(s) of authority, and there are often additional governance documents that depend on and elaborate on the source(s) of authority. A common problem the enterprise architect encounters is that many organizational governance processes are not clearly connected to the appropriate source(s) of authority and may wield unclear decision rights as a result.

Analyzing the participants in an organizational governance process can help the enterprise architect identify potential supporters and users of the EA and infer their information requirements based on their organizational roles and responsibilities. A key to success for an EA is presenting information that is relevant in the eyes of organizational decision-makers and that is in the form they prefer to utilize.

Understanding the rules for the organizational governance is essential for the enterprise architect to have a chance of providing relevant and useful information to organizational decision-makers. The rules specify how the participants make decisions, what kinds of information is required and in what form, the approved sources of that information, the processes for reviewing, approving, and recording information used to make decisions. The schedule for recurring decision types is also important, as many follow an annual cycle within which the EA must furnish information at the right time.

Reviewing past decisions including the governance process and supporting information can help the enterprise architect understand the information needs of organizational decision-makers. This is not to say that decision-makers have been getting the information they want; if decision-makers were receiving all the information they wanted, there would little opportunity for the EA to add value (at the strategic level). Getting to know the people who support organizational governance processes can speed up the enterprise architect’s understanding of those processes.

You may ask:

Why does this organizational governance matter? What does it have to do with EA?

It is almost impossible for an EA to add value in the absence of at least one solid organizational governance process. This process could oversee budget or acquisitions decisions or be focused on IT decisions such as application/systems investments or standards compliance. Any of these decision types, and many others, can benefit from EA information, but the value of the EA depends on the impact of the governance process it supports. In the absence of any stable organizational governance processes EA fails to sustain value. Serious effort should be made to make EA a part of a stable organizational governance process. Unfortunately, the existence, quality, and openness of organizational governance process are almost always beyond the control of enterprise architect, and this situation makes EA so interesting, challenging, changeable, and frustrating.

Further Reading

  1. US Dept. of Health and Human Services, HHS Enterprise Architecture Governance Plan, Ver. 3.0., Enterprise Architecture Program Management Office, 2007. Available from: https://www.hhs.gov/ocio/ea/documents/hhs_ea_governance_plan_fy2008.pdf
  2. Office of CIO, Enterprise Architecture Governance Procedures, Environmental Protection Agency, 2012. Available from: https://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2013-11/documents/cio-2122-p-01.1.pdf
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