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vlericksession entreprise architecture

In this session of training Expand your Digital Horizon, EA - Enterprise Architecture was explored by Prof. Bjorn Cumps (Vlerick) and Wouter Depoortere (Colruyt).

Wouter Depoortere is Chief of Myreas. Myreas is responsible for EA within the Colruyt Group. EA is strongly supported within the Colruyt group, even the CEO is actively involved.  Myreas consists of 48 Enterprise IT and business architects who are jointly responsible for a domain within the Colruyt group.  

What is Enterprise Architecture? 

John Zachman (IBM) defined in 1987 EA as the bridge between strategy and implementation. Gartner built on this and defined EA as a process that translates business vision and strategy into effective enterprise change.  Thus, EA should help IT and business decision makers make decisions.  

So EA is not just IT's responsibility, but equally the business's. The business works with processes, components, information where IT focuses on applications, data and infrastructure. 

The Colruyt group consists of several companies active in the food and non-food industry in Belgium, France and Luxembourg. The group is divided into different units which can work autonomously but in which synergies between the units are created based on EA to increase the efficiency of the (business) processes. Colruyt distinguishes between different units: 

  • Business operating units, e.g. Colruyt, Okay, ... 
  • Business service units, e.g. Fine foods that sell through the operating units
  • Group service operating units, e.g. IT
  • Corporate operating unit, the board

What is the added value of enterprise architecture? 

In addition to synergy and efficiency, EA should make things less complex. The whole should be more agile so that changes can be responded to more quickly and easily. Today's world is characterized as volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous, also known as the VUCA world. This makes it impossible to plan for several years ahead and to stick to this plan. EA allows for rapid response to changes that occur.

The way EA is approached has changed significantly. In the past, EA was viewed as "advanced puzzling" where the end result is always known and the pieces can be used in only one way. This resulted in low agility. EA has evolved into a "tangram" in which the pieces are disconnected, making them reusable or interchangeable without changes to the other pieces. This results in increased agility.


Colruyt started to build the BC landscape as a tangram where the Business Capabilities are seen as unique and independent building blocks that can be reused in different value stream processes by one or more operating units, brands, services ...

A Target Operating Model (TOM) is used in the creation of BC. An operating model supports in deciding on the standardization and integration of business processes. Standardization leads to increased efficiency and predictability which in turn leads to increased output.

Four models can be distinguished:

  1. Diversification: low standardization, low integration 
  2. Coordination: low standardization, high integration 
  3. Replication: high standardization, low integration 
  4. Unification: high standardization, high integration 

Next, pace-layering (Gartner) is used to characterize the BC based on the differentiating capability and investment horizon of the IT systems. Differentiating capability reflects the extent to which IT can be a differentiator. A distinction is made between unique and commodity where unique has high differentiating power and commodity shows low differentiating power.

The investment horizon indicates how long a system can be used before it is replaced. A distinction is made between core (>5 years - represents certainty and sustainable), dynamic (1 to 5 years - represents learning) and innovative (< 1 year - represents innovation and experimentation).


Pace layering can then also be used to decide whether a standard tool (commodity) will be purchased or customization is needed (unique) to manage the BC's processes.