We see a lot of discussion, in the frameworks, books, speeches, and the blogosphere that discusses the value of EA as it applies to the planning and governance of money spent to change a company (usually IT dollars, but many enlightened souls will speak of a broader PMO that includes business initiatives).

As you read these sources, or listen to the speakers speak, it is clear that there is a pernicious underlying assumption, one that I would like to question.

We know that EA applies to managing change in processes and internally focused systems… but is EA also useful in helping a company to make decisions about the mix of products that they present for sale to their customers?  There is very little discussion of this possibility, or how EA could fit with other processes for product development.  One would assume, from the silence, that EA is not applicable to assisting with the necessary planning for products and services.  I would only caution: not so fast.

Can EA be valuable for deciding what products or services a company should offer?

First off, Enterprise Architecture includes Business Architecture.  Enterprise Architects must consider all of the elements of business architecture, and if they do their job right, they work to “engineer” changes to a company to align the priorities and behaviors of company resources with the vision, strategies, and success measures of the enterprise. 

When deciding what products and services should be offered, companies must consider all the same business inputs and evaluations.  A Business Architect collects this data, and structures it.  I’ve seen countless evaluations, and methods, for doing this work, often in a manner that structures the data for a particular report, but fails to capture it consistently for reuse.  This is amazing, when you think about it, because business architectural information is the MOST IMPORTANT data that a company can consider when it plans for the future!  Yet this data is frequently collected once and THROWN AWAY. 

Secondly the mix of products and services offered by a company reflects the strategy of that company.  The only reason that a company develops a product or service, and then markets it, sells it, provides it, and supports it, is because that product or service fits with someone’s idea of business strategy.  In effect, product development is simply one elements of strategic execution.

If EA really does include business architecture, and Business Architecture can include the formation of strategy, and product development is an output of business strategy, then Enterprise Architecture can influence product development.

Yet, our frameworks and educational materials are nearly silent on this aspect of business.

I’m curious about your thoughts.