Mike Walker's Blog: Enterprise Architecture

Richard Seroter posted a great recap on the Gartner press release “Gartner Says By 2016, 30 Percent of Enterprise Architecture Efforts Will Be Supported as a Collaboration Between Business and IT” that triggered not only buzz on the #EntArch feed but also with me.

Gartner highlights the key trends that show that the tipping point is starting to happen. I don’t think it is has happened, I think we are fast approaching it.

"The discipline of EA has passed a tipping point where practitioners are moving beyond applying EA to IT alone, either in aspiration or in actions," said Betsy Burton, vice president and distinguished analyst at Gartner. "We are finding that the majority of EA practitioners are aspiring to leverage EA to enable business value, growth and transformation, not only to drive IT decisions. While this has been a vision for EA for many for years, we are now hearing many clients clearly voice this same vision and aspiration of EA."


Like Richard, I am somewhat disappointed as well with the the length of this journey. However, I take a step back to be a little less critical and reflective at the progress of the Enterprise Architecture practice and I have to say we are trending in the right direction. We are not straying off the course, we are adapting and embracing the way things should be.

Funny enough, I had a similar conversation with a colleague a month or so ago where he stated, “EA should just be the strategy of the business now… should be a revolutionary move…. It should not take more than 3 years to do this…”. While I would love for this to be the case we know that is not practical nor achievable even if we wanted it right now.

I want to extend this point with some rational on why EA isn’t moving faster with some of what I see as key inhibitors:

  1. New Role for the Enterprise – This role is very new for businesses. There has been no other role in recent history that performs the same tasks as Enterprise Architects and more importantly what they will be doing in the future.
  2. Morphed Role in the Architecture Space – Enterprise Architecture evolved from low level information classification frameworks to IT Architecture Frameworks to Business Driven Enterprise Architecture. These changes have impacts to the ways existing practitioners do business but also to how organizations manage and adopt these roles to move their organizations forward.
  3. Breadth of the Role – Like eluded to in the first point but warrants it’s own line is the breadth of this role. No other role is at the level of breadth and impacts as the Enterprise Architect. With this breadth there is a  great deal of management of ambiguity. With little definition of roles and responsibilities (or at least constantly across businesses), engagement points, the services offered, the repeatable and predictable methods and outcomes that the Enterprise Architect should produce. 
  4. Limited Definition of Who and What we Do – There have been great strides over the past year to solidify a role definition of the Enterprise Architect but the actual definition of what we do and how it changes from what was done in the past (IT Architecture) has a great deal of work needed. This is where standards bodies like The Open Group can help the industry.
  5. Culture and Politics – The further up the food chain you go, the more fierce the politics. This is the same for Enterprise Architects as they span the business.
  6. Baggage – Not all Enterprise Architects have executed outside the IT Architecture space. Most of which is not there fault because they have been forced there due to where IT or the business. the challenge is however, if that is all you know there is a learning curve to doing what Enterprise Architecture should be doing. This curve takes time to know how to conduct business, the questions to ask and the methods to use.
  7. Emotional Intelligence (EQ) -   Moving from the IT worked to the Business world isn’t easy. There are many different motivators, personalities, pockets of politics and culture. This take a very keen person aware of their surroundings and the needs of their customers. A heighten EQ is needed to manage these complexities. This isn’t something you take a course on and are certified, this takes years of practice.

Keep in mind these are generalizations based on what I see in the industry. Our EA profession is just new and is evolving. Just like with anything new it takes time to absorb it into the enterprise.

I am very optimistic on where we are heading. EA is flexing it’s Enterprise Strategy muscles to be truly value driven. We have moved past the talk of what it should be and to the actual doing of what we have been aspiring for. This is extremely promising.

We are also seeing the business validate this. If the business is validating the Enterprise Architecture profession that means there is very tangible value that these business are getting from us. That is the true validation.

We see evidence of this from Richard’s research:

Alex Cullen of InfoWorld points out a recent Forrester study that highlights the increased support for EA programs when they have an active business architecture discipline. This trend is reinforced by early submissions to the Forrester/InfoWorld 2011 Enterprise Architecture Awards. Cullen says:

“I’ve talked with pharmaceutical firms that report crafting a much more blended business/IT operating model, a telecom firm whose EAs help business understand the scope of business transformation programs, and a manufacturer where the EA team is helping the business to understand how to utilize existing capabilities when venturing into new business areas or geographies.”

The movement towards a more business-integrated IT department is was also clearly evident in last year’s Enterprise Architecture awards. The winning companies shared a number of characteristics that led to their success. Enterprise Architects at both Barclay’s Bank and Discover Financial Services have significant input into project portfolio management and can help prioritize projects and ensure compliance with a greater architectural vision. According to Barclay’s, EA teams that can effectively collaborate with diverse business stakeholders such as finance, planning and operations have a greater chance of success. Each of the winning EA groups appeared to have strong mandates to pursue their endeavors but it seems clear that if they had stumbled in their efforts, they would not have retained their influential position.


This is all very promising and I am not at all concerned that we are not movin
g fast enough. I would much rather move at a diligent and thoughtful path (slower) versus hammering EA in too quick without getting the support it needs.


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