AT#45: How to Make Enterprise Architecture a Management Instrument Part1 – Digital Governance

AT#45: How to Make Enterprise Architecture a Management Instrument Part1 – Digital Governance

AT#45: How to Make Enterprise Architecture a Management Instrument Part1 – Digital Governance

To unleash its enormous power, Enterprise Architecture (EA) must be implemented as a management instrument that is the basis for important strategic decisions. In practice, however, EA is still a mystical discipline, ruled by vague frameworks and done by a small EA group far away from executive boards. In most companies, EA has no or very limited impact on strategic business decisions. Enterprise Architecture SHOULD be a management instrument but fails in practice.

Today we start a series of posts that show concrete steps on how to change this sad situation and implement EA as a management instrument. Enjoy!


Digital transformation is a challenge not for some business units, but for the company as a whole. The company is the ‘owner’ of the transformation, not a single business unit like sales, production or IT. Sustaining the momentum of the transformation is critical to the company’s success. After the initial enthusiasm has tapered off chances are high that executives encounter more and more resistance from business units pursuing their own interests. 

To deal with this problem, sustaining interventions by governance decisions will become essential to help you keep track of the direction of your common aim. Digital transformation has to be coordinated with a broad set of stakeholders. Otherwise, business units would move in directions that appear to best for them but is not best for the company.

Definition: Digital Governance

Digital Governance defines how decisions are made to steer the organization in the direction of the common vision. Its goal is to assure that the investment in business & IT transformation is apportioned in a way that maximizes business value. 

Digital Governance is implemented by a formal organization structure of people (usually called ‘governance boards’) that make decisions on architectural models with well-defined roles and responsibilities. Establishing the right digital governance model is critical since it acts as the rudder to steer your digital initiatives in the right direction. Autonomous solution teams must keep their autonomy AND must be aligned in a way that maximizes value for the whole organization. Top executives need to manage resources (i.e. disseminate budgets) to make the company move in the direction set by the business vision. 

Surviving the rough waters of digital transformation means that you need to have a strong, clearly articulated and strict governance. But don’t confuse ‘strong governance’ with ‘vast bureaucracy’! In our definition, governance is ‘strong’ when it fosters informed strategic decisions that are based on solid architectural maps that are created collaboratively and understood by everybody.

Our approach to digital governance follows three guidelines. They are mandatory to balance the variety in perspectives with the common aim:

  • Establish a lean set of processes and rules instead of overloading the stakeholders with bureaucratic processes and unsolicited artifacts. 
  • Encourage evolutionary problem-solving by autonomous solution teams instead of blueprinting the whole future rigidly on a drawing board by a small group of “Enterprise Architects”. 
  • Foster and moderate innovation by open participation instead of the expertise of an elite group and their top-down wisdom

Following these guidelines ensures that you get strategic decisions that are accepted on the operational level by the implementing business units. We do not propose digital governance that is prone to producing a bureaucracy of approvals. Structure, simplicity, transparency, and participation are the ingredients for sustainable decisions that are stronger than the typical resistance of business units pursuing their own goals.


In our next blog post we will show what enterprise-wide architectural maps look like if tailored as management instruments

Previous Posts

AT#20: Why Digital Transformation fails without Architecture

AT#13 Companies are Elephants!

AT#15: How to make decisions in uncertain Times

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