Predictions: Enterprise Architecture in 2020

Mike WalkerAt the Troux Worldwide Enterprise Architecture Conference I had the pleasure of being invited to an EA industry panel to answer and discuss questions from the conference attendees.

A question was posed to us panelists around the future of EA, specifically what EA looks like in 2020. I received such great feedback on my response that I thought I would share it with all of you.

In general, when this topic comes up there seems to be two very distinctive perspectives from folks I talk to. The first camp are the people that don’t understand the value proposition of EA and feel that it will be abandoned as a discipline soon. This is even seen to some degree in the analysts community. When I was talking at the conference I remembered an example of this from the article “Gartner predicts that by 2012 40% of today’s enterprise architecture programs will be stopped”. Obviously we are not seeing this prediction coming to true in 2012.

On the other side we see wild enthusiasm and grand predictions on how EA will change the world. There doesn’t seem to be too many people that I talk to that are in the middle of the road.

So what do I think? While there is a lot that can happen in the next seven years I do think EA is here to stay. However, I believe that it will look a bit different than it does today. I believe that there will be a natural evolution to its eventual state.

Many of the existing functions that EA performs today will be here however I think that there will be a pruning of the functions that don’t sense and additions to what does. The core charter will stay the same.


Orthogonal Drivers and IT Environmental Aspects

In a recent post titled The Evolution of Today’s CIO I discuss that IT and the CIO’s role is evolving to be more and more business centric. There is quite a bit of evidence here. Below is a chart that shows the CEO and CIO aligning priorities over the next 3 to 5 years. 

Mike Walker's Blog: CIO and CEO priorities aligning

Source: IBM, The Essential CIO 2011 Survey

While CIO’s are expected to uphold operational and technical excellence the data not only from IBM but from many others shows that the CIO is getting the unique opportunity to step into the business realm as well. Now that technology is so ubiquitous coupled with such deep business impact CIO’s are essential to business units.

As the CIO matures and becomes more business centric who will they turn to in their organization. The Enterprise Architecture function of course. This is the only function that has the charter of being at a business level and aspires to grow more and more into this area. This is emphasized by the desire of very many EA functions  to move out of IT entirely so they can easily be business focused.

If this is the trend, EA is essential for the CIO and the CIO is essential for the EA group. Whether it be staying within the IT or being a strong supporter that remains to be seen.


Macro themes for EA in 2020

  • Enterprise Architecture will business driven 
  • Increase EQ to balance better with IQ
  • There will be a separation of IT Architecture from Enterprise Architecture
  • Enterprise Architecture may move out of the IT organization while IT Architecture remains
  • Increased focus on corporate sustainability. Business capabilities with longevity.
  • Enterprise portfolio management will be a first class citizen


Predictions for 2020

I believe the following will be the key changes to EA in 2020:

  • Clear purpose
  • Understand & Operationalize EA Business
  • EA Activities
  • EA Competencies & Certifications
  • Lead through Emotional Intelligence


Clear Purpose

Thus far, EA has been a collection of many things without a perfectly clear, consistent & universally accepted purpose, definition and set of outcomes. You may ask, why is this important? It’s so important for so many reasons.

A few of the key reasons below:

  • From an overall industry perspective it is essential to have the purpose and clarity to have sustainability as a profession. This allows for common expectations from the professionals that make up the EA industry.
  • Without purpose for  individual EA teams within companies it can also be problematic. With loose or even random value propositions it will hinder credibility and ultimately results.

I am starting to see a great deal of changes in the industry to solidify this more. We see examples of this everyday with universities support, firmer standards, maturing enterprise architecture functions and a wealth of support from practitioners in communities like LinkedIn and others alike. To credit the discipline a little bit, for such a robust and complex as EA it is no doubt why it has taken so long.

At the current rate of change in EA by 202o the EA industry should have a clear and generally accepted answer on the purpose of EA. Whether that is fully adopted in EA organizations around world is a different story all together. Many other considerations are at play there.

For organizations today, it is essential to get to the root of the purpose of your EA function. Begin to think about why your EA function exists and what value does it bring to the company. Getting to the root of why is essential to be purpose driven. 


Understand & Operationalize EA Business

Today when I ask, “describe the business of EA?” I often receive puzzling looks and brief answers on charters and such. What is troubling is that we expect to partner with the business but we don’t act the business. Often times we have our own language for things that have existed in the business for a very long time. This doesn’t help our cause.

By 2020 the industry should have matured much in this area with a revised focus on business acumen versus purely on technical architecture.

We are already starting to see operational and services excellence in EA teams. I believe this trend will continue. As we begin to interact more and more directly with the business they are going to want predictable and repeatable results. To do this, service enablement is needed to have clear SLAs and OLAs. Below is an example of a service model that I had created a few years back.

Mike Walker's Blog: EA Services Model

In the example above, the business or customer is able to request services from the EA team. This sets precise  expectations on what they will get and more importantly what they will not get. With this comes metrics that can measure success or failure easily.

With this new focus and purpose, how EA operates will be different with a defined an Enterprise Architecture Operating and Service model that will aid in repeatable and predictable results for it’s customers.


EA Activities

With a business centric EA organization the first priority should be to focus on value management. EA’s in 2020 will think first about what value is to be derived from a potential solution to a problem. Value can be many things, it just depends on what it means to the specific customer. It could mean:

  • Cost reduction
  • Productivity
  • Risk reduction
  • etc.

By focusing on portfolios of capabilities the EA’s will be able to manage value in a quantitative and qualitative way. This will also aid the EA on focusing on what investments are important at any given time to allow for maximum returns for the business.

Instead of starting bottom up the standard mode of operation will be top down. Similar to what you see in popular frameworks like TOGAF.

Mike Walker's Blog: Architecture Domains

This isn’t to say that the EA will perform all of these aspects of architecture but rather a model to follow.


EA Competencies

EA’s are being asked not only to align but to partner with the business. To do this they need the competencies and skills to be able to act and speak accordingly with the business. This space is advancing year over year.

I have built out a framework on how to separate competencies from other aspects. This is in the context of certifications. Below is a way to think about the separation of the different certification aspects.

Mike Walker's Blog: EA Comptencies

Below is a description of each aspect:

  • Competency Based Certifications – These certifications are focused at evaluating your experience to validate that you are indeed an architect. Much like many other certifications in the industry (e.g., PMP). These are much different to others that determine what you know instead of how you applied the knowledge.
  • Industry / Specialized Certifications – Driven from a predetermined set of concerns such as the federal government or a specific industry is where these derive from. While these certifications are critical in that vertical, often times they do not transfer well across verticals given the difference in drivers and motivations of these very specific bodies of knowledge.
  • Foundational Certifications – Provides the essential skills for EA’s. These certifications are different from the other two in the respect that they validate that you’re an architect while foundational certifications validate that you know a specific methods, models and/or tools. These certifications are essential to EA’s as they populate the EA’s toolbox. For example, without an overall enterprise architecture framework how would we be truly effective as EA’s?
  • Applied – Divided into two primary areas, Academic and Vendor Tailored they either support a certification or provide a certification highly tailored. These are in a supporting function to Competency Based Certifications.
  • Supporting Certifications and Learning’s – These certifications make a well-rounded enterprise architect. These are often referred to or leveraged in the day in the life of an EA.


For more detail see the post entitled, Enterprise Architecture Certifications Distilled.


Additionally, I have written several posts on this topic over the past year.



Today there is a focus on specific architecture or EA certifications. Year after year I am finding that Enterprise Architecture certifications are becoming more important to architects. Back in 2007, I remember reading an article from Gene Leganza called, “Is EA Certification Important?”. In that article he stated that 65% of the people he had surveyed stated that EA certification is not important but he also noted that a significant minority stated they were including EA certification criteria in their hiring processes.

I believe this has changed quite a bit.

We continue to see the very positive trends in terms of investment in EA skills throughout the industry and the world. Below is a snapshot of some of the trends in a presentation I gave on certifications internally at Microsoft.

Mike Walker's Blog: EA Certifications


But there is one small wrinkle in this. The hypothetical question I ask is,  “Does the business value your EA certification? Does that EA certification alone instill confidence in the business leaders?” To some degree. I would assert that alone it doesn’t because it doesn’t cover all the concerns of the business but does cover all the concerns of an EA.

Why do I say this? The reason for this is that the business expects you to have those certifications because you are an EA. That part is a given. However, if you want to be a true partner, they expect you to operate like the business and truly empathize with the business. Use their methods, models and tools. If that is the case, complement your EA certification with a MBA or equivalent is in order.


Lead through Emotional Intelligence (EQ)

Today we have some challenges here. Connecting with the business to facilitate, aid or participate in the decision making process is often a tricky task. It requires trust and credibility. While some EA’s are very good at this, there maybe some opportunity to get better at this. Culturally architects of all breeds tend to some common traits:

  • Academic or philosophical discussions
  • Going deep really quick
  • Get hung up on technical accuracy or purity

These are not necessarily bad things in moderation, but when abused, it can be disastrous for credibility.

In an article I wrote several months back titled IQ Isn’t Enough. Enterprise Architects Must Balance with EQ Driven Approaches, I discussed that it is vital to lead less with IQ and more with your EQ. Now that’s not to say that IQ doesn’t matter. Of course not, that’s what got you in the door but it doesn’t keep your job. EQ does.

For EA to succeed in the future, this skill will need to be honed. The EA’s audience  and customers expands greatly as it reaches into the business. Not only will they need to partner with IT but also with the business. This introduces a mixing pot of needs and wants that the EA must rationalize.

To get us there on that journey there is a great article from a close friend J.D. Meier on his blog Sources of Insight called, 101 of the Greatest Insights and Actions for Work and Life. In this article, he outlines both the everyday improvements you can do to your routine but also shows the shifts that you can do to be more in tune with EQ.



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