The advent of lean processes from Toyota in the last century have had a long ranging impact. From just-in-time inventory to total quality management to agile software development, businesses that have adopted techniques based on what we now call “Lean Principles” are more successful, more dynamic, and quicker to market than businesses that continue with “top down” thinking often taught in business schools.

As we examine everything from supply chains to software licensing systems to find the core value proposition, stripping away steps and processes that add no value while focusing on building systems that resist human error, enterprise architects are often part of the team engaged in bringing these principles to life. We are in the mix.

However, Enterprise Architecture, as an overall practice, has resisted the call to become lean itself. It is time to break that impasse. It is time for the processes of Enterprise Architecture to become lean.

Now I’m far from the first person to suggest this idea. But there seems to be a lack of understanding of what we mean when we say “lean.” For example, I found an article from 2015 that suggests a BDUF (Big Design Up Front) activity as Lean Enterprise Architecture using TOGAF 9.1. I have a very difficult time seeing a Design activity as lean. At the other end of the spectrum, an architect named Eero Hosiaisluoma from Finland developed an entire lean architectural framework for Enterprise Architecture based heavily on the concepts of Lean along with Archimate 3 and the EA platform LeanIX.

My objective is to join the conversation and to “land in the middle” between these two extremes. I am a fan of agile development methods like Scrum and Kanban but I recognize them as the software derivations of business process philosophies. I will look at the underlying business philosophy and apply it to Enterprise Architecture, hoping to re-educate and re-orient myself (and you, dear reader, if you will embark on a journey with me) to a leaner, more value driven approach.

Over the course of a series of articles, I will discuss the various elements of what I will call Agile EA (or aEA), a role that I’d like to see replace the typical Enterprise Architect role in IT organizations. Along the way, I will attempt to answer key questions about EA from the perspective of a lean practices.

By Nick Malik

Former CIO and present Strategic Architect, Nick Malik is a Seattle based business and technology advisor with over 30 years of professional experience in management, systems, and technology. He is the co-author of the influential paper "Perspectives on Enterprise Architecture" with Dr. Brian Cameron that effectively defined modern Enterprise Architecture practices, and he is frequent speaker at public gatherings on Enterprise Architecture and related topics. He coauthored a book on Visual Storytelling with Martin Sykes and Mark West titled "Stories That Move Mountains".

3 thoughts on “We Must Make Enterprise Architecture Lean”
  1. Hi Nick, the Lean approach to EA is the idea of the Open Agile Architecture standard. Although created and managed by The Open Group it is
    completely different approach than TOGAF. It provides useful guidelines and techniques for architects without defining the comprehensive process. Feedback coming from course attendees on this new standard is very good showing that it exactly matches the current EA needs and provides useful guidelines.
    BTW TOGAF can be used for a lean approach as well but you have to use it wisely not in theoretic or academic way (which is unfortunately the very common approach).

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