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Anatomy of Agile Enterprise

Janne J. Korhonen

EA and IT Governance: a Systemic Approach

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The relationship between IT Governance (ITG) and Enterprise Architecture (EA) is much debated. IT Governance is generally viewed as an integral part of corporate governance and EA considered as a collection of artifacts to be governed within ITG, but there are also views that IT Governance is a subordinate process to Enterprise Architecture, guiding the definition and fulfillment of IT capabilities within EA. To further complicate things, the concept of Enterprise Architecture Governance (EAG) is emerging, yet it does not have an established definition.

Last week, I presented an academic paper in the 5th European Conference on Management, Leadership and Governance (ECMLG 2009), in which my colleagues and I attempted to bring some order to the conceptual confusion and to position the notions of IT Governance and EA Governance with respect to the loci of IT-related decision-making in the organization.

To this end, we constructed an abstract meta-level governance structure -- Agile Governance Model (AGM) -- that distinguishes two aspects:


  • Design, planning and support aspect that focuses on external effectiveness. Organizational functions of this type are forward- and outward-looking and promote flexibility, adaptability and innovation. It allows the organization to create new capabilities with long-term focus and to respond to changes in its environment. This aspect is about "doing the right things".

  • Development and execution aspect that is focused on internal efficiency. Organizational functions of this type are backward- and inward-looking and promote predictability and accountability. It is about streamlining the existing operations with short-term focus and responding to predictable contingencies. This aspect is about "doing the things right".

In the paper, we argued that the management processes and control mechanisms of IT governance are inadequate for holistic governance of enterprise architecture. Whereas IT governance primarily focuses on running daily IT operations, EA is primarily focused on designing the future state of architecture in support of business. IT governance frameworks such as CobiT define policy development and good practice for IT control, but EA still calls for comparable governance measures. We viewed that there is a need for a distinct definition of EA governance that addresses the strategic, forward-looking aspects of EA, currently downplayed by IT governance.

Consequently, we positioned EA governance and IT governance as depicted in the figure below. The center of gravity in EA governance is on the planning side and at the tactical level, whereas the emphasis of IT governance is on the operational execution. In EA governance, the perspective appears to be organization-wide and attention to be directed toward external effectiveness. In contrast, the objective of IT governance would be that of internal efficiency.

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While our distinction between EAG and ITG appears to be in line with some sentiments, there are many differing views on the matter. However, we found the positioning helpful in designing a more balanced governance structure that alleviates the inherent conflict between EA, whose main objective is to support business change, and IT, whose main objective is to minimize risk and ensure compliance.

Janne J. Korhonen provides insights into how information technology can be applied strategically to catalyze organizational change and responsiveness. Drawing from both theory and practice, he discusses agile enterprise and its governance.

Janne J. Korhonen

Janne J. Korhonen is an independent business and IT consultant,specializing in enterprise architecture, business process management,service-oriented architecture and pertinent governance models. He has over ten years of experience as an architect and consultant in a variety of extensive and mission-critical IT projects. With strong theoretical underpinnings, his consulting encompasses systemic co-development of business, organization and information technology.

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