Enterprise Architecture practices that bring value Agile IT projects

Executive Summary

Companies in the Belgium finance industry started to adopt Agile at a larger scale in more recent years to be able to address the need for a faster time to market for products and services. Agile originated around 2001 with the Agile Manifesto but Enterprise Architecture has been here since the 1960s and the Enterprise Architecture practices that have been developed adhere more to waterfall principles because of this longer history.

Original Enterprise Architecture practices are more sequential of nature and rely strongly on documentation whereas Agile is more sequential in nature and relies on lean documentation. Because of this historical contradiction there is tension between Agile practitioners who see enterprise architecture more as a blocker than as an enabler and enterprise architects who struggle to show the real value Enterprise Architecture can bring for Agile.

This thesis sets out to investigate if original Enterprise Architecture practices can bring value to Agile IT projects as it can help organizations to better understand and organize the Enterprise Architecture practice and what value it can bring to Agile IT projects. The outcome can also help Agile practitioners to better understand the value Enterprise Architecture can bring to their Agile IT projects and support a culture of respectful collaboration.

Using a Qualitative research methodology, a set of 34 Enterprise Architecture practices was extracted from existing literature and evaluated based on the value they bring to Agile IT Projects. Evaluation of these practices was done by 23 experts from both Agile and Enterprise Architecture practices, working in the finance industry in Belgium. The top tree Enterprise Architecture practices that were confirmed by experts to bring the highest value to Agile IT projects are:
– Develop Enterprise Architecture skills by ensuring architects have excellent communication skills to convey clear messages to different stakeholders
– Develop reference architecture by developing and maintaining an architecture repository containing standards, reusable components and patterns, relationships, dependencies and views to enable uniformity of architectural organisations and maintenance
– Develop Enterprise Architecture organisation culture by ensuring that the architecture is seen as a mentor and a guide helping business and IT decision making, and not merely as an auditing or controlling mechanism

These experts provided practical evidence and experience and confirmed that 16 out of the 34 Enterprise Architecture practices listed bring high value to Agile IT projects. In fact, a very interesting finding is the fact that all the 16 confirmed high value practices contribute positively to one of the important critical success factors for Agile IT projects which is: communication. Enterprise Architecture can certainly support a higher chance of success.