Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Viewpoint on Enterprise Architecture Consulting: Architecture Assessments and Roadmaps

My team is wrapping up an eCommerce assessment and Foundational Stability engagement for a client and I have been reviewing some of the older program documents. A few of these documents date back about five years ago – authored at the time of program inception – provide an excellent rear-view mirror. One in particular titled "eCommerce Strategy current assessment"is especially thought provoking. It was a report authored by EA consultants from a competing firm, highlighting the application portfolio with inputs from Technologists and Business stakeholders. The deck had a whole set of documents one would expect including

• eCommerce Capability Models, Capability Mappings
• Analysis of Business Units including Heat Maps
• Application Assessment catalogs
• Survey administration approach, toolkit and findings including highlights from technical and functional standpoint
• Benchmark surveys from other client engagements
• Health-Check and findings
• Future State Roadmap

The client is about five years into the enterprise eCommerce consolidation journey, with several projects and programs executed (read, millions of dollars spent) and my team was engaged to assess the Architecture developed and rolled out based on the original roadmap, a checkpoint if you will.

The report by itself was comprehensive, what you would expect from a tier-one consulting firm and would have probably cost a small pile of money to compile. Needless to say a tremendous amount of time and effort from the organization’s resources also went into that excercise.

The fact of the matter is that the benefits of portfolio consolidation promised by the strategic exercise are far from realized. After reviewing the report and documenting my observations on the small steps the organization had taken towards actually developing a unified enterprise "eCommerce Platform," I began to reflect on the challenges of laying a roadmap versus the effort involved in actually realizing it. The portfolio of eCommerce platforms remains fragmented with redundant applications meting their individual functional requirements in a silo. In some cases the portfolio is more fragmented than it was five years ago. For instance, the report talks about 25 Order Creation Applications, 11 applications supporting product search and over 8 reporting applications. Fast forward five years and the numbers have not changed! The TCO gains from consolidation have not been achieved. The only saving grace: the organization has been Offshoring a lot more of application development and support, thereby reducing overall IT cost.

As a consulting EA, I get to visit a fair share of clients, some of them a while after my teams have helped assess landscapes, define roadmaps or strategies for future. The sense Déjà vu during such reviews – similar to the experience in the current engagement - should not surprise the seasoned consultant in me, but it still does.

Other intersting views on EA this week. An interesting Video on Enterprise Architecture (Tipoff Mike Walker's Blog) - What is Enterprise Architecture According to Industry Thought Leaders