Enterprise architecture sounds like a good idea.  But in the real world of gotta-get-it-done IT projects, it can often seem like an annoying obstacle rather than a strategic asset. Here's how CIOs can prioritize.

The challenge: Line-of-business leaders want IT to fulfill their specific near-term objectives successfully, quickly and under budget.  So an enterprise architect who starts asking questions and insisting things be done a certain way can be perceived as merely slowing things down and generating scope-creep—alienating Line-of-business leaders, IT project teams and technology vendors alike.

Enterprise architecture, however, is vital.  Without suitable architectural standards, insurers can quickly wind up with multiple technology silos that don’t work well together.  They can also over-spend on redundant capabilities, incur excessive long-term technology debt, compromise security, and fail to endow the business as a whole with the IT agility it needs to navigate an increasingly mercurial market.

That’s why insurance consultancy Novarica has proposed a seven-point checklist for governing enterprise architecture.  The checklist is intended to help insurance CIOs optimize implementation of enterprise standards, while minimizing adverse impact on project deliverables.

Novarica’s seven governance checklist items are:

  • Identify key business and IT strategic drivers and create reference documents that will arbitrate technology decisions
  • Establish a target technology reference architecture that reflects all possible investment needed without economic constraint
  • Link architecture governance to funding governance through logical gates
  • Create a standard template to capture all dimensions of the architecture review and highlight the tradeoffs that may be needed
  • Gain commitment in writing for future projects and investments
  • Adopt a test-and-learn culture for architecture
  • Test the proposed solution and its expected benefits, implementation complexity, and its technical feasibility
  • Support the architecture process consistently

The authors of the report offer specifics regarding the execution of each of these governance activities.  For example, they suggest three particular types of “logic gates” for linking architecture governance to funding.  These include an initial gate at the very start of the project before it is funded at all, another gate when business requirements are first mapped to technology at a high level, and still another gate prior to execution—when lower-level design specs are ready for review.
They also suggest the specific items that should appear on a governance template—including hardware and software requirements, application interfaces, security validation procedures, business continuity measures, and performance stress-testing in anticipation of future growth.

Mitch Wein, a principal in Novarica’s insurance practice and one of the report’s authors, adds that enterprise architects also need to exercise common sense in governing IT project deliverables.

"Building inspectors don’t impose the same requirements on home additions as they do on the construction of 100-story skyscrapers,” he says.  “Similarly, enterprise architects should be careful about being excessively dogmatic in situations where there is a genuine opportunity for the business to quickly capture value in the short term—as long as they also secure appropriate commitments for longer-term conformance to the company’s strategic technology goals."

This article originally published by Insurance Networking News.

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