For enterprise architects, alignment to a strategy is often a core principle.  They are well known for building governance mechanisms that trace all programs back to a strategy.  But does that get in the way of self-organization?  The wave of corporate implementation of mobile strategies is once again raising the question: How closely should we adhere to the principle of strategic alignment?

Mobile technology has already changed the world we live in and the way businesses go about their operations.  Corporations and governments have been busy for many years implementing strategies to enable users to leverage mobile devices in their business processes. While much of the focus has been has been on integrating mobile technology into business strategies, it’s the distribution of information that could prove to be a game changer for an enterprise, according to Mohamed El-Refai, executive architect with GBS and chief architect for China GDC, in a blog post on the IBM DeveloperWorks community.

This focus on information distribution may not tie well to a business strategy. In the post, El-Refai raises a question to enterprise architecture – Should they shut down an initiative for information distribution when the benefits may not tie directly to a business strategy?

On one hand, we have the argument from ‘boundary-less information flow’. In order to remain competitive, today’s businesses often need to make quick decisions. Using mobile technology to distribute information means that decision makers could have all the information they need to make informed choices right at their fingertips, whether they’re on site or mobile. New tools, from business intelligence in the cloud to mobile adapters for ERP systems, have changed the landscape.  Should enterprise architects wait for these initiatives to tie to a specific strategy or should they just enable the business before they ask?

On the other hand, is the principle of strategic alignment. If a business process needs to be improved, enterprise architects can look for ways to leverage mobile technology to improve that process but other processes that are not under the microscope should be left alone.  That is a better use of resources and allows higher quality delivery of capabilities.

This is a difficult choice for an enterprise architect and one that goes to the heart of governance.  Enterprise architecture is often seen as a gatekeeper to stop ‘stupid’ projects from going forward, wasting resources for benefits that no one will realize.  If the cost of enabling mobile technology is relatively low, as is often the case with modern tools, should projects be allowed through the ARB governance process, even if they do not align to a strategy?

El-Refai argues that they should.  What do you think?