Saturday, June 5, 2010

How to justify for the ROI of Enterprise Architecture

I was invited to be one of the panelists for the ITARC 2010 Malaysian Chapter, and the topic in discussion was How to justify the ROI for Enterprise Architecture. Wow, a huge one!

I still remember during the boom, every single company wanted to develop some system for some part of their business operations. Some applications were meant to promote the company image, some to generate more revenue, and some to make the operations more efficient.

An IT-literate organizations may have developed tons of applications like this. Email application, Document Management Application, Applications for Finance Department, Applications for Marketing Department, Applications for Support Department, etc, etc.

Fast forward to a few years later.

The same IT-literate organizations realize that these applications are all working in silo. They do not integrate well with each other. The irony is that the same applications that were meant to create efficiency is now causing inefficiency - as users are required to login to multiple systems, copying contents from one and pasting to another in some cases, in order for them to complete their jobs.

If we look deeper into the nature of enterprise applications. They all share the same characteristics to some extent:
1. Security - Authorization, Authentication
2. Audit Trail - Non-repudiation
3. Workflow or processes - The business operations part of the process
4. Interface
5. Reports/business intelligence

If all these silo applications have been planned and built on an infrastructure that make use of, Microsoft Active Directory Services or some directory services that can be integrated with LDAP, suddenly users are not required to login to multiple systems in order for them to do work.

And if the applications were built on a framework with a powerful BPM engine, applications development could be shortened from months to week. All software developers would agree that business process is the most time consuming portion of the entire software development exercise.

If we can somehow consolidate all these silo applications on an enterprise-wide framework, suddenly inter-department collaboration becomes so much easier. Instead of building up walls, a properly designed enterprise architecture actually breaks them down.

And because of that, the time to market has been shortened from months to weeks, or even days.

How much edge would it give the organization if it is able to adapt to the market demand faster, and as a result create a new product faster? Can the projected revenue cover for the cost of the enterprise architecture?

More on ROI later.

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