Successfully delivering value from healthcare IT investments is difficult. That’s a refrain I’ve heard again and again from healthcare leaders, whether in the boardroom, the executive suite, or the data center.
Why? The reasons are numerous, but several themes are consistent including ambiguous requirements, inadequate prioritization, an imbalance between demand and resources, funding availability, unrealistic expectations for delivery and accountability, and individuals focused on their own needs rather than enterprise-level objectives. These challenges are amplified by the constant business and technology changes we face in our industry.
The best way to manage this situation is an active dialogue with the leadership team to align resources to organizational strategy. The process that helps create and sustain this required dialogue is the discipline of Enterprise Architecture (EA)—the foundation of business and IT alignment. It creates a process and governance structure intended to drive open, transparent, and ongoing communication across all business functions. Once the EAF governance is in place, a model to utilize and manage technologies is created to enable all business processes. This model can then be leveraged to evaluate and add functional capabilities. The model consists of four domains: infrastructure, applications, data, and information.
This technology model is like the design of a house. The house has systems to deliver electricity, water, heat, etc., and if you want to put on an addition, you leverage the systems that exist to support the expansion. In IT, we do the same thing. By using the established model to build out processes we can best manage changes for the future.
So what’s the blueprint to build a successful enterprise architecture process? You start with these three steps:
- Business Alignment. This is really the goal of enterprise architecture—align IT investments with organizational strategy to achieve business goals and objectives. You do this by establishing a governance structure that includes both business and IT leadership. It is important for this group to understand the value of an EA by displaying transparent support across the organization to secure buy-in from all parties. Defining the business architecture and strategy, and establishing the governance is the driver for what everything else will look like.
- Establish a Change Framework. When you implement EA you start at a point in time with existing business drivers and technology platforms. Yet change is inevitable and the organization needs to be able to adapt and pivot. Your change framework defines clear criteria to judge when a change request is warranted versus a new evolution of the architecture is required.
- Communication and Transparency. Understand what your stakeholders are looking for, communicate the goals and strategy, and what they’ll get out of it, and document everything. Making sure the goals are readily available for everyone to see at any point establishes a foundation of trust and openness.
In addition to the three steps is what I consider the most important piece: finding the right partner on the business side who understands the value of the process you’re implementing, and will help you champion the needs of the enterprise.
Building an enterprise architecture that stands the test of time will help you align your business and IT investments to deliver value to the enterprise, and create an environment for your organization that is adaptable for today and into the future.
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