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The State of Enterprise Architecture

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As organizations continue to grow their IT investments (bought, borrowed, or built) and concepts like Business Process Management (BPM) and Service Oriented Architecture (SOA) become more common, the role of Enterprise Architecture (EA) has become more common. Recently, David Linthicum, Mike Kavis, and Alan Inglis each talked about what they see with respect to EA in the industry.

Linthicum asked the question: Should we continue to invest in EA? He pointed out the typical approach to Enterprise Architecture in Global 2000 companies as:
[F]or most of the Global 2000 there is a lone architect, with a couple of staffers, that has no budgetary nor referential authority, thus no results. You can't "influence" your way to success, you have to have some kind of hammer drop on somebody's head if they don't follow the core architectural principles…it's called governance. Thus, there are groups of people drawing very nice paychecks that don't add value to IT, or the business, and don't have to deliver tangible results.
Linthicum's pointed out that he isn't coming down on the architects themselves regarding this specific issue. Instead, he stated that it is the organizations continued focus on tactical projects in IT while only paying lip service to real strategic (i.e., enterprise architectural) that contribute to the current state of affairs in EA. He did hold enterprise architects accountable for what they do produce even within this context. He said that the two main issues with architects in this role are that they can't measure or quantify the issues their organization currently has and that many of the architects fear change. Some of the measurements needed by enterprise architects are cost inefficiencies in the infrastructure, quantifiable value of technology reuse, and the value of organizational agility.

Linthicum answered his own question by stating "So, I say, if your enterprise architecture efforts are not effective, don't continue to invest in them. That is, until you get serious about doing architecture, and are willing to carefully measure the value to the business."

Mike Kavis shared information from a presentation he gave to management within his organization on the value of Enterprise Architecture. Key points in the presentation were: defining EA, the role of the chief architect, and the value of having EA and an EA group. In his slides, Kavis described what the EA team should focus on:
  1. Create the vision
  2. Provide direction and oversight
  3. Hit key areas of business processes/services, enterprise metadata, infrastructure, and security
  4. Have fiscal responsibility
  5. Perform research and development to harness emerging technologies
Mike's presentation pointed out some of the good practices inside of EA. He also talked recently about the downside of EA by describing 10 reasons enterprise initiatives fail. Of the ten reasons Kavis listed, only one is technology related: "Lack of technical knowledge." The rest are focused on organizational and people issues. One of the biggest of these issues is "Underestimating or ignoring the impact of change":
People need to know WIIFM (what's in it for me). Resistance to change can kill any project. Your initiative must have a champion who carries a lot of clout. The leadership, lead technicians, project managers, and all of the visible people in these projects must be positive forces and constantly promote the vision and the future state. ...People will feed on the attitudes of those leading the initiatives. You must address resistance head on and address people's needs to help them turn the corner. For those who just refuse to buy in and become roadblocks, show them the door!

Commenting on the list, Mike Walker added another item to Kavis' list that echoed Linthicum's discussions: Teeth in the process. That is, the enterprise needs to have governance with authority to enforce the principles. Without those teeth, governance is simple a list of things an organization ought to do instead of the things they have to do.

Alan Inglis commented on the state of EA in Europe as compared to the US. Echoing Linthicum's thoughts on "drawing nice paychecks" without adding value to IT, Alan hypothesized that the recent upsurge in funding for American EA efforts may be what is hampering them.

If you have millions of dollars and years to deliver then what pressure is there to be pragmatic? This has meant that the dominant approaches to Enterprise Architecture are Big Architecture Up Front approaches. Where architecture has had less acceptance and less money, we have had to evolve alternative ways of achieving our goals. We have had to develop creative approaches to making our money go further.
Inglis seemed to be pointing out that European EA efforts are succeeding strategically due to their requirement to execute tactically because of funding.  It seems that the "curse of plenty" affects IT across the board.

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