Organizations today must remain flexible and dynamic to serve the challenges of their mission. Most successful organizations have an established enterprise architecture (EA) to act as a mechanism for assessing the impact of change and for defining (and re-defining) the target states. We believe that to remain responsive to the ever-changing environment, the organization should build in innovation management techniques as part of the EA practice to maintain a strategic eye focused squarely on the customer’s needs.
But, how do you incorporate your organization’s innovation approaches into your EA in an effective manner? First, let’s define the two concepts, and then we will discuss how innovation management can be implemented to complement the organization’s EA and drive improvements.
An Enterprise Architecture is the organization’s current and desired state blueprint. It describes how it is structured and operates, with the end goal of managing and controlling the projected outcomes. A standard architecture might be structured to show the different views of the company’s mission areas (capability, operations, services those missions use, and the systems they use), with additional descriptions of how they are managed through the organization’s investment management, the regulations that govern them, and the data and information sources (example shown below) that feed and are fed by them.
Innovation Management is the approach the organization takes to managing new ideas and developing them into solutions for their customers. This process must be managed to ensure the company stays relevant in its market, by converging on solutions that get to the heart of the true Jobs to be Done (JTBD)[i]. We discuss this process, with an emphasis on IT solutions, in our latest white paper entitled “Innovating IT Solutions through Human-Centered Design” found here.
So, we want to ensure that innovation management is built into the organization to inspire creativity in solving challenges that drive change, and we want to use the enterprise architecture to ensure that the innovations become projects that are aligned with the transformational needs of the organization and that build towards its defined strategic objectives. The two must be linked to ensure the organization’s environment is revised in real time, and the EA will be a valuable tool to ensure that the innovation management processes remains focused on solutions that align with the strategy, so that both can realize their full potential.
How do we achieve an Innovative EA?
A culture of innovation across the organization is required to identify areas of change that need to be reflected in the enterprise’s architecture or solution offerings and to frame the scope and impact of those changes before acting. Our first recommendation is that the organization should provide just enough structure to enable innovation decision-making, but not to stifle thought evolution and creativity. Human-Centered Design approaches, like customer discovery and defining the JTBD, should be built into in the organization’s policies and practices governing early stages of projects to ensure that innovation management is used to develop the new ideas with the end customer in mind.
Our second recommendation is that your organization’s innovation management approach should remain the same across all mission areas and stages of development. This means that, in any area of business, the same, repeatable process is used to frame a problem, evaluate if change is feasible/useful, and ideate. To ensure compliance, innovation management should be a capability modeled in the enterprise architecture, with the appropriate links to other capability areas to expose dependencies and handoffs in the processes, services, and systems.
Our final recommendation is that, when considering how to integrate innovation management to enable change in the EA, always keep in mind how those ideas are being collected in each mission area. Gathering and converging on new ideas is the first step to developing a culture of innovation, and the innovation management structure should be worked into the supporting layers of the organization. For example, the way that all projects are managed should be tailored towards the innovation framework, and an organization should use the same Kanban[ii] across its various project teams to maintain an underlining agile framework that focuses on driving change.
Taking these approaches will help the organization remain responsive to the demands of technology and the customer’s needs. They show your employees that you care about their ideas and your customer that you are interested in constantly improving on existing solutions. As your innovation efforts define new changes to your organization, its processes, and/or its processes, the resulting projects will be documented in your EA and may spawn new ideas for development as they evolve the existing organizational landscape.
For more information about these approaches or general questions, please leave a comment or reach out to us! We are interested in hearing from you. Thanks so much for reading!
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[i] The Job to Be Done is the genuine purpose for which people buy products, services, or solutions, learned by understanding the customer’s behaviors and motivations. It’s a concept that was first articulated by Harvard Business School Professor Clayton Christensen, and further described in the Innovator’s Toolkit, Second Edition, by David Silverstein, Philip Samuel, Neil DeCarlo, 2012.
[ii] A Kanban board is a tool used by agile or scrum team to ensure sprints remain on track, by managing their tasks transparently on a board (normally using sticky notes for each task) to show where each task is in the development process.