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Enterprise Architecture Matters

Adrian Grigoriu

The state of EA at the debut of 2011

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  At the beginning of the new year, let me recap again the situation of EA. Anything to be merry about?  

Overall, EA looks like it always did. Little really happened in the field. No substance was added since Zachman and TOGAF. Except that, in this void, various trainings and certifications offerings are getting a foothold.

Since there is no academic or agreed definition for EA or its framework, many fora, individuals and companies have come with their own views that usually cover aspects of rather than the whole of Enterprise Architecture.    

We still have to ask basic questions like: what is the purpose of EA, is it about strategy and change or about complexity management or...? How does EA achieve business alignment or support strategy? How does EA enable decisions and investment making activities? What are the key EA artifacts? 

Since no major contribution has advanced the cause, most people wait and see, hoping for a miracle breakthrough.
An external observer would say that people are satisfied with the state of the art, methods, frameworks and especially with the results. That may be true only because expectations have been adjusted low.

EA is mostly seen as an IT discipline having more to do with IT strategy and target state rather than anything else. Typical work involves solution architecture reviews and IT roadmapping. The EA professional issues architecture principles, technology guidelines and creates applications, technology, connection inventories and eventually a business capability map. Architects are expected to know TOGAF, typical IT systems and quite often specific technologies.

People technically still use the good old four layers paradigm: business, information, applications and technology in various combinations. Even so, each layer is described differently by different people. Navigation between them is rather difficult since there is no overall framework to interconnect the layers. Good metamodels that help appeared though. Sometimes, to compensate for the lack of navigation, architects add matrices of application interconnections, tables of  applications mapping to technology systems etc. The mappings matrices are not intuitive and become out of synch rather soon. 

Even though it is clear for everybody now that EA should cover business architecture, there is no agreement on what that is in the first place. Business expects the EA to describe the Enterprise operation, which is not the case in today's EA that describes systems and technology alone. Business mostly deals with process maps, process improvement methods (BPM, xSigma...) and Value Chains analysis which are seldom part of EA. So why should anybody outside IT bother with EA?

It is also trendy to talk about business modelling but business models mean not business architecture. 

Every EA development experience looks different. Without reference, architects treasure their own findings as a competitive advantage and share little.  Every EA outcome is different, hard to compare. 

As such, without definition, reference and guidance, the architect job description and selection criteria vary widely; the field is gradually invaded by people who think that's the title sounds good, certainly pays well enough and requires nothing concrete. Paying lip service to TOGAF gets one there. Certifications surely help. Nevertheless, stakeholders don't get to see an EA but they don't expect it any longer. In the end, EA diminishes.

The good news is that everybody still agrees that EA, in concept, as the architecture of the Enterprise, is still necessary despite its performance in terms of results and usage.


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@Adrian: "Since no major contribution has advanced the cause, most people wait and see, hoping for a miracle breakthrough."

Incorrect IMHO.

PEAF has made a major contribution

Kevin, pls provide a link rather than copy all your framework appraisals.
You might state though what PEAF brings new.

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Adrian Grigoriu blogs about everything relating to enterprise and business architecture, SOA, frameworks, design, planning, execution, organization and related issues.

Adrian Grigoriu

Adrian is an executive consultant in enterprise architecture, former head of enterprise architecture at Ofcom, the spectrum and broadcasting U.K. regulatory agency and chief architect at TM Forum, an organization providing a reference integrated business architecture framework, best practices and standards for the telecommunications and digital media industries. He also was a high technology, enterprise architecture and strategy senior manager at Accenture and Vodafone, and a principal consultant and lead architect at Qantas, Logica, Lucent Bell Labs and Nokia. He is the author of two books on enterprise architecture development available on Kindle and published articles with BPTrends, the Microsoft Architecture Journal and the EI magazine. Shortlisted by Computer Weekly for the IT Industry blogger of the year 2011.

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