Which type of barriers to risk management would you find in an organization?

The success of an EA depends on decision-makers changing their information-seeking and information-use behaviors. Changing behavior, in turn, depends on changing deeply held values and beliefs. Any attempt to induce others to change their behavior, values and beliefs faces substantial barriers including, but not limited to, personality, relationships, organizational culture, history, competing claims for attention and preference for the known. There is a rich and interesting literature on organizational change that explores these barriers and is bound to be useful to the Enterprise Architect.

Barriers come in many forms, change over time, respond in some cases to the actions of the Enterprise Architect and often are hidden or hard to discuss. A barrier is different from a constraint in that the constraint is usually known, internal to the EA effort and not self-imposed; many other topics in the EABOK discuss ways of dealing with constraints such as staffing, budget, tool limitations and so on. Dealing with barriers depends on skills in organizational politics, communications, negotiation and compromise, patience and accepting losses gracefully.

It is important for the Enterprise Architect to identify whether he or she can remove, overcome, mitigate, or avoid a barrier. Some barriers, such as regulatory requirements, cannot be resolved by the Enterprise Architect or anyone else, while other barriers could be resolved by someone other than the Enterprise Architect. Barriers rooted in personality, relationships and organizational culture are often the most difficult to resolve, while barriers that relate to management processes, policy and strategy may be more tractable.

The Enterprise Architect must deal with three major types of barriers specific to EA: positioning, governance and policy. There are two aspects to positioning, the formal rank and authority of the Chief Enterprise Architect within the hierarchy of the organization and the informal influence of the entire EA effort across the social system of the organization. The formal rank and authority are determined by the reporting relationship(s) of the chief architect and lie outside his or her direct control. Access to leaders, membership in decision-making groups, responsibility for directing the efforts of others, and control of financial and other resources are tied closely to formal rank and authority. Many EA efforts have struggled due to poor positioning.

The second aspect of positioning, the informal, reflects the patterns of interaction between people at all levels of the organization as they go about accomplishing their personal and organizational goals. The actions of every member of the EA effort can improve its informal positioning by developing and sustaining positive relationships with decision-makers, information sources, experts and others who shape organizational decisions. This informal network provides information that complements the information flowing through formal reporting processes and often shapes decisions and decision-making processes.

Another important barrier for EA efforts is governance, defined by Weill and Ross as ‘decision rights and rules.’ People have to make decisions for their organizations to survive. Lots of these decisions relate to organizational resources and boundaries and there are many different ways of making decisions. Legal requirements and accountabilities to external parties such as regulators or shareholders move organizations to document and formalize their decision-making processes as governance, codifying who has the authority to make decisions and defining the rules those people should follow. Governance covers financial decisions to some degree in almost every organization and governance is often extended to other types of decisions relating to strategy, products and services, human resources, information technology and facilities.

The quality and consistency of organizational governance is one of the most powerful factors correlated with EA program success, according to expert sources from both the private and public sectors. While the EA team may not have the opportunity to shape governance, understanding, supporting and strengthening governance are key strategies for Enterprise Architects.

An important complement to governance is policy. A policy is an organizational rule intended to control actions by members of that organization and approved by leader(s) of that organization. Defining policies is key to establishing governance, but policy work can start with a single, simple rule. What is most important is to win the support of your leaders for defining, communicating and enforcing policy that supports organizational goals and relates to the decisions that are the focus of your governance. Bear in mind that there is a strong relationship between your EA value proposition and the types of policies your organization will need. For example, if your EA value proposition is IT cost reduction, policies requiring compliance with technology and product standards are essential for your program to succeed.

In planning an EA effort, it is helpful to think in terms of a campaign. To sustain the EA effort the Enterprise Architect must find and obtain organizational resources such as authority, access to decision-makers, information, credibility, expertise and funding. Without these resources the EA effort is unlikely to add value in the near-term or survive over the long-term.

Like other types of campaigns, an EA effort must distinguish between many different, potentially valuable, main goals and choose one main goal as its driving thrust. Many Enterprise Architects refer to the main goal as the EA value proposition. The main goal is typically complex and to be achieved it has to be broken down into sub-goals. Determining how and when to achieve these sub-goals is one of the keys to a successful EA effort. The context for every EA effort is different, so the main goal, sub-goals and strategies for achieving these goals vary widely. One important factor to consider in prioritizing and planning EA effort sub-goals is the set of barriers that may prevent the EA team from accomplishing its goals.

You can start by decomposing the EA effort main goal in a set of sub-goals and then identifying the dependencies between the sub-goals. For example, establishing EA governance without having established authority and defined the policy may be frustrating because decisions and standards don’t get implemented and there aren’t any consequences for disregarding the governance. Then it makes sense to map the potential paths to each sub-goal and assess the feasibility, cost and difficulty of each. Finally, you can develop a roadmap for delivering on your EA value proposition and make the case to your decision-makers for proceeding.

Further Reading

  1. Blenko, M., Mankins, M., and Rogers, P. (2010). The Decision-Driven Organization. Harvard Business Review. June 2010.
  2. Buchanan, D. A. and Badham, R. J. (2008). Power, Politics, and Organizational Change: Winning the Turf Game. London: Sage.
  3. Heifetz, R. A. (1994). Leadership Without Easy Answers. Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press of the Harvard University Press.
  4. Van G., Wim and De H., S.. (2009). Enterprise Governance of Information Technology: Achieving Strategic Alignment and Value. New York, NY: Springer.

EABOK® Knowledge Areas

Organizational Scope and Structure of EA

  • Overview
  • Organizational Need and Drivers
  • Stakeholders
  • Risks and Barriers
  • Strategy
  • Positioning
  • Perspective Taking
  • Security and Risk Management

Foundations of EA

  • Overview
  • Historical Perspectives
  • Principles

Developing an EA

  • Overview
  • Business Requirements and Value Proposition
  • Methodologies and Processes
  • Architecture Frameworks
  • Tools
  • Standards
  • Data and Information Management
  • Project Management
  • Change Management
  • Testing and Evaluation
  • Modeling and Simulation
  • Quality
  • Role of Reference Architectures
  • How to Build a Reference Architecture
  • Coordinating the Creation of a Reference Architecture

Management of EA

  • Overview
  • Portfolio Management
  • Roles
  • Supervision and Control
  • Resourcing
  • Education and Training
  • Maturity

EA in Practice

  • Overview
  • Oversight
  • Business and Operations Improvement
  • Communication
  • Acquisition
  • Transition
  • Evolution

Perspectives on EA

  • Overview
  • Complex Adaptive System
  • Information/Knowledge Management
  • Narratives
  • EA and Agile Teams
  • EA's Fit With Security and Privacy Controls
  • International Space Reference Architecture


  • Overview
  • Governance-Corporate


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