Lean & Enterprise Architecture: Enterprise Architecture for Lean Business Processes

Marc Lankhorst & Peter Matthijssen
Posted by Marc Lankhorst & Peter Matthijssen on Feb 27, 2014

Enterprise Architecture, Lean Management

In previous blogs in this series, we discussed the ‘wastes’ of enterprise architects and enterprise architectures. That may have sounded rather negative, but the main message of course is: EA is no goal in itself, it should support the organization. Regarding Lean we have the same message. Unfortunately, we see many Lean initiatives with a narrow scope. Locally, efficiency seems to improve (and results are celebrated), but there are no results enterprise-wide. In these cases there is a large need for some EA realism!

In this blog, we look at the practical combination of Lean and EA: How can EA be helpful in Lean projects, i.e. how can you use it to help realize a lean and agile organization?

Enterprise Architecture for Lean Business Processes

Let’s start with the typical Lean/Six Sigma DMAIC improvement cycle and see where EA might be useful and where we find common practices in both worlds. The first step, Define, is all about the start-up of the project and definition of the problem.

Stakeholder analysis is a common practice in both Lean and EA. From a Lean perspective, we advise to involve an enterprise architect in the project. As a stakeholder, or even better as a team member. The enterprise architect keeps track of the enterprise-wide impact of process improvements. Ideally, Lean practitioners and enterprise architects cooperate in such a way that project results are generated which optimally support the organization in the short and the long term.

Architects can be of great help in Lean projects. Some examples:


Within the Define step, a SIPOC (Supplier, Input, Process, Output, Customer) analysis is often performed to create insight into the processes under consideration (see the figure below). This view is very familiar to architects, who can often provide a lot of useful input to this analysis.

Providing architecture and process models

Reusing existing architecture and process models helps you to kick start your process analyses. This is particularly important in the Measure and Analyze steps of the DMAIC cycle, where you create artifacts such as process and value stream maps to find bottlenecks, waiting times, complex judgements, rework, hidden factories and other issues in the processes. Of course, you have to check if this pre-existing material is still representative of the reality. As we all know, the real world often deviates from the ‘official’ way of doing things. Conversely, these analyses may provide important feedback to architects, to help them keep their architectures up-to-date. 

Defining solutions

Another important role for architects is in defining solutions in the Improve step of DMAIC. Whereas Lean initiatives often focus on the ‘now’ and ‘self’ aspects of process improvement (see the figure below), enterprise architects are more considered with the ‘later’ and ‘others’ part. One of their main concerns is to ensure the coherence between different initiatives, processes, projects and systems. They can be of great help in avoiding local optimizations that would negatively influence other parts of the organization, because they approach things with the ‘big picture’ in mind.

Sharing good practices

The Control step of DMAIC is about sustaining the gains. To this end, you want to share good practices found in the processes at hand across the enterprise. Architects with their enterprise-wide scope may help you to identify areas within the organization in which the improvements and practices may be reused.

From the above, we conclude that enterprise architects can provide important added value across the full improvement cycle. Close involvement of architects in Lean and Six Sigma projects is therefore a best practice in itself.



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