Do you need to create an As-Is State?

I just saw a post by Adrian Grigoriu responding to Gartner’s Philip Allega’s post Applying EA to Your Life .  Within the post about how EA might be able to help plan our lives, Philip then brings up an regular EA debate “Do you start with the Current State?”  Actually, Philip says don’t do it.

If you have started your EA program and your first activity is to document the current state, STOP NOW. Refocus your team on analysis of the business strategy and development of the future state architecture.

Current-state analysis done first limits your ability to see future possibilities.  Developing future state first will constrain the level of detail required for current state.

I have a problem with Philip’s directive on stopping work on EA Current State. When introducing EA approaches to an organization, especially if you are doing this as an internal initiative, you MUST demonstrate a clear understanding of the issues and challenges to your senior sponsors.  No one will invite you to make comment or participate in strategic planning activities if your own house is not in order (or at least you have a plan in place). As you will see later in the post, creating our current state was essential to build our future state.

Adrian’s response is much more in line of how we delivered out our EA practice.  In particular, Adrian’s point about establishing a future state is exactly right.  You must understand the economics and practicalities of building the future and this is done by understanding the current state.

I hope this piece of advice was not meant to be taken literally. Imagine going to your CIO or senior manager telling him  that you have to stop the current state documentation work, now.

The target architecture cannot be established based on Vision alone. It is not practical or economically viable to start from tabula rasa each and every time you implement a new strategy. Competitors would be delighted though.

In 2007, we took our EA discipline and practices and used them as a basis for building a Technology Plan for our organization.  Here was the approach we took in order to get buy-in from our senior executive.  We had made attempts at strategic technology plans in the past but nothing of this magnitude or disciplined approach.  We call this diagram our “plan on a page”:

Here was our approach was to build the plan approved by our Senior Executive team:

  1. As Is State
  2. Environmental Scan
  3. Strategic Planning Assumptions
  4. Vision
  5. To Be State
  6. Roadmap
  7. Resources
  8. Guiding Principles

So why build the As Is State first in the context of building our plan:

  • Input to gap analysis
  • Common basis of information for the planning team
  • Establish baseline metrics – this is a key success factor for measuring and demonstrating an EA approach
  • Useful for benchmarking
  • Foundation for future iterations of the Plan

As with any EA practice, you have to tailor your methodology to your organization.  For us, building an As-Is State was a must have and it worked.  Our planning is an annual event with a three year window.  We established IT Governance and have aligned our technology investments to support the strategic plan of our institution.