3 Linking Mechanisms that Shape a Company’s Foundation

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Your company’s foundation for execution will make or break your survival in the market for the long haul.

How can you incrementally build and shape the foundation, while executing projects?

How do you connect and align IT with your business vision, while shaping your foundation for execution?

You can use three linking mechanisms to build and shape your company’s foundation.

In the book, Enterprise Architecture as Strategy: Creating a Foundation for Business Execution, Jeanne W. Ross, Peter Weill, and David C. Robertson write about three linking mechanisms that help you build and shape the company’s foundation.

Why You Need Good Linking Mechanisms

Linking mechanisms are the key to building and shaping your company’s foundation for execution.  You can incrementally shape the foundation as you drive projects.   You can also inform your company’s foundation as you learn from your projects.  Ross, Weill, and Robertson write:

“Good linking mechanisms ensure that projects incrementally build the company’s foundation and that the design of the company’s foundation (it’s operating model and enterprise architecture) is informed by projects.”

3 Linking Mechanisms that Build and Shape the Company’s Foundation

According to Ross, Weill, and Robertson, the three linking mechanisms are:

  1. Architecture Linkage
  2. Business Linkage
  3. Alignment Linkage

Architecture Linkage

Architecture linkage connects projects to IT governance choices about architecture. Ross, Weill, and Robertson write:

“Architecture linkage establishes and updates standards, reviews projects for compliance, and approves exceptions.  Architecture linkage connects the IT governance decisions about architecture with project design decisions.  For example, a company working to increase integration may have a mechanism for insisting that a supply chain project — rather than focus narrowly on its own data needs — restructure an inventory database so that it facilitates anticipated future uses of the inventory data.  Companies may fulfill architecture linkage with one mechanism, such as an architecture review board.  More commonly, firms employ multiple mechanisms, ranging from architect training programs to architecture exception processes.”

Business Linkage

Business linkage links projects to business goals.

Ross, Weill, and Robertson write:

“Similarly, business linkage ensure that business goals are translated effectively into project goals.  Business linkage coordinates projects, connects them to larger transformation efforts, and focuses projects on attacking specific problems in the best possible way.  For example, a key linking mechanism for companies pursuing companywide standardized processes is the use of process owners with primary responsibility for designing and updated processes.  Business linkage also includes incentive programs to guide behavior as new projects demand new ways of thinking.”

Alignment Linkage

Alignment linkage connects business and IT relationships.

Ross, Weill, and Robertson write:

“Alignment linkage mechanisms ensure ongoing communication and negotiation between IT and business concerns.  Business-IT relationship managers or business unit CIOs are typically a critical linkage for translating back and forth between business goals and IT constraints.  Other mechanisms in this category include a project management office, training and certification of project managers, and metrics for assessing projects.”

Linking Becomes an Organizational Habit

It’s a maturity thin.   The more you practice the linking mechanisms, the more it becomes an organizational habit.

Ross, Weill, and Robertson write:

“Earlier we noted that a company’s management practices evolve through the stages of architectural maturity.  Many of these evolving practices are linking mechanisms.  As they are implemented and improved, they contribute to increasing sophistication of the IT engagement model.  Over time, linking mechanisms can become increasingly embedded in IT governance and project management processes so that linking becomes an organizational habit.”

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