In my last two blogs on EA4SME I put forward the argument that, deployed correctly, Enterprise Architecture (EA) has the potential to provide huge benefits to SMEs, and promoted a simple framework that could be followed to enable the selection of the right solutions for a business.

Today I will address the elements of solution selection, coupled with what it’s going to take to deliver it.

Introducing the delivery funnel

The previous post introduced the EA4SME model, a reflection of the overall approach broken down into the steps that need to occur along the way. It also covered the strategy funnel which addressed covered off the first three elements of EA4SME.

Solution selection and delivery is covered in the final three stages off the EA4SME model, starting in the same phase that strategy funnel ends. This overlap reflects the fact that the strategy phase Builds to a point where a solution can be selected that doesn’t address the selection of the solution.

Once this point has been reached, a new model is required. This is where the delivery funnel is introduced.

Similar to the Strategy funnel, the delivery funnel provides a phased approach for how a business will select, implement, and then manage the solutions required to solve the problems addressed in the earlier phase.

It is also still critical to carry out continual evaluation – both the journey towards a target state and the external environment, which can change significantly as we have just seen with Covid 19.

Phase 8: Solution Selection

The strategy funnel provided a clear framework to get you to the point where you could choose a selection. This is not to say that the solution will stand out from the pack, as capabilities can often be delivered by more than one solution (And sometimes may not even be a system).

It’s at this point that any good business needs to follow a clear framework to assist possible solutions against the requirements articulated in the target state.

This could follow two pathways:

  1. Systems
  2. Skills

To keep it simple this blog will address systems, we will cover the skills element another day.

To select systems, larger companies often follow a procurement process, usually issuing a Request For Proposal (RFP) where vendors are asked to present how their solution will deliver the target state. This is a process that smaller companies can adopt to suit their needs, either led from within or through partnerships with procurement specialists.

Once all vendors have presented on how their products will deliver the target state, the businesses be able to assess the solutions against a list of criteria that has been defined in the earlier strategy phase and make a decision. The strategy should always serve as the guiding document through this process and ensuring that the solutions identified continue to add value to the company.

The intent behind this is to embed good practice into the way organisations select their technology. It also ensures that the solution that is delivered can solve the problems that the business has identified.

This strategy should serve as a guiding document through this process to ensure that the solutions identified continue to add value to the company

Phase 9: Delivery management

There is plenty of debate that goes on about the best model for delivery, waterfall and agile being two of the more commonly known ones. That’s not what this phase is about though.

This phase requires a business to identify the steps that need to be taken to move through the critical path identified in phase 7. The difference here is that critical path covers the high-level plan while delivery management goes into more detail on the steps that need to happen around data migration, the purchase of the solutions and configuration and installation.

While I won’t tell you the right methodology to use, I strongly urge you to follow one as they contain best practice which will ensure the delivery is as painless as possible. This phase may be led by the business or in collaboration with the vendor who is delivering the solution. The important part to focus on though is that the business maintains accountability of all decision making, and that the solutions delivered still solve the problems identified in the strategic development.

Phase 10: Service Excellence

Overlapping with phase 9 is Service Excellence. In this phase you need to address support and ownership models around the solutions you are purchasing. This includes but is not limited to:

  • Who will be responsible for any decisions around the business.
  • Who will support the new solutions purchased through the process.
  • Any long term costs stemming from the solutions (such as licenses)
  • The processes that need to be adopted alongside the new solutions, including changes and maintenance.

In addition to the above, this phase also covers the remediation and decommissioning of any old systems which are no longer required.

As with phase nine this may be led by the business or in collaboration with the vendor, but overall accountability remains with the business.

The result of all of this is the selection of solutions which solve business problems, then delivering them in a way that ensures your business can maintain a leading edge amongst competitors.

The final blog in the EA4SME series will provide a case study where this has been used!

Want to know more about EA4SME? Get in touch today!

Sources used to shape the thinking of this blog:

Van Elsacker Louisnord, N. 2018, Make service excellence part of service management

Bernaert, M., Poels, G., Snoeck M., De Backer, M., 2014. Enterprise Architecture for Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises: A Starting Point for Bringing EA to SMEs, Based on Adoption Models

Burns, P., Neutens, M., Newman, D., Power, T., 2009. Building Value through Enterprise Architecture: A Global Study. Booz and Co.

Ross, J.W., Weill, P., Robertson, D.C., 2006. Enterprise Architecture As Strategy: Creating A Foundation for Business Execution

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