Gartner Inc., one of the world’s leading information technology research and advisory companies, suggests that “enterprise architecture (EA) is a discipline for proactively and holistically leading enterprise responses to disruptive forces by identifying and analysing the execution of change toward desired business vision and outcomes. EA delivers value by presenting business and IT leaders with signature-ready recommendations for adjusting policies and projects to achieve target business outcomes that capitalise on relevant business disruptions”. Perhaps put more simply, enterprise architecture is a conceptual blueprint that defines the structure and operation of an organisation. The intent of enterprise architecture is to determine how an organization can most effectively achieve its current and future objectives. Microsoft’s Michael Platt offers a view of enterprise architecture as containing four perspectives:

  • Business perspective – the processes and standards by which the business operates on a daily basis
  • Application – the interaction among the standards and processes used by the organisation
  • Information – this defines and classifies the raw data (document files, databases, images, presentations and spreadsheets) that the organisation requires to operate efficiently
  • Technology – the hardware, operating systems, programming and networking solutions used by the organisation

There are many good products available and some excellent bespoke solutions have been created, elevating business processes, systems, data processing and other intellectual property assets to levels of high efficiency and effectiveness for many organisations. Businesses, however good these systems may be, need to take cognisance of the human impact of the changes that are made. Even though Michael Platt suggests elsewhere that “employee retention may be enhanced”, (and it is true that much training takes place to upskill employees with the new processes and systems), whilst human resources processes and systems are even built into the architecture, organisations frequently neglect or are unaware of the emotional impact of the prevailing change on the employees. All change has emotional fall-out – even if that same change has only targeted information technology platforms, hardware and other business processes and systems.

Leavitt (of Leavitt’s Diamond fame) suggests interconnectedness between four components of organisational life – systems, tasks, structures and people. He notes that any substantial change in one of the four components inevitably impacts the other three in varying degrees. With enterprise architecture, huge changes are typically made to systems, tasks and often some structures – employees (people) could be affected negatively in some or more of the following ways:

  • Loss of status
  • Feelings of disempowerment
  • Irritation and even anger
  • Feelings of inadequacy or incompetence
  • Indifference or other attitude changes
  • Feelings of loss or helplessness

Others could be affected positively, especially if they get a promotion as a result of the change. Their feelings may be the following:

  • Hopeful and excited
  • Eagerness to learn new skills

Whatever the emotional impact, an organisation’s leadership team has a responsibility to demonstrate care for all during the change process. Enterprise architecture has its rightful place. It is a necessary intervention for accelerating strategic alignment, effectiveness and efficiency for any business. Change leadership, however, should be married to this process for optimal results.

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