Enterprise Architecture Matters

Adrian Grigoriu

Enterprise Architecture status quo

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To me, a core EA problem is the apparent contentment with the state of EA art. It looks like we prefer the status quo to rocking the boat.
Why so though?

    Since the EA body of knowledge is not mature, many practitioners are not armed to produce  the EA. They are still long debating what framework to employ. They struggle to understand how frameworks compare, overlap or complement each other or what are their strong points and when to use one or another. But what practitioners discover is that, in practice, after the magic and steep costs of the training and certification, most frameworks are of little use.

But few are going to invent an EA framework since that is not part of run of the mill work. Most use a mixed EA approach made up of different bits and pieces from various methods, chosen according to skills and experience.  

Hence, as long as they can still call themselves EAs, practitioners' attitude is of wait and see. 

Yet, as critical commentary, if everybody ends up with own "bits and pieces" method, perhaps we are not getting the same EA. If you ask a few teams to come with the EA of the same enterprise, the outcomes would be vastly different.

     Known players seldom acknowledge each other, if at all, and bother little to evaluate each other's approaches or to align or merge their definitions or methods in a common outcome. Apparently, they have an interest in the status quo. No progress, means they can still sell their own frameworks. 

As famous parties monopolise the attention, there are lots of practitioners that pay lip service to them, serving themselves in the process, as well. Many take advantage of the situation for own commercial benefit. They continue to milk their own success to the bone, ignoring all others or belittling them.

This looks more like fierce competition between frameworks and practitioners without a shred of collaboration. But this is the system, right? A few win, the rest lose. The enterprise though is the biggest loser.

     Few, if anybody, share EA results.
Confidentiality? Perhaps.
Intellectual property? Few would want to disclose the way they did it because too many fish around for that, while pretending to preach EA to you.
In any case, you'll soon see your ideas published without credit by someone else, as I've seen mine at times.
And, and I believe that this is the most frequent case, the EA outcomes would be too unstructured to be of any use to anybody else, if of any use at all.
In some cases no EA is delivered at all, even if the EA team continues to painfully exist.

     There probably are a few good EA approaches (I maintain that mine covers all aspects and returns results) but there is too much opportunistic literature (books...) available today to confuse one for a century.

Besides, in this brave world we live in, without references, costly advertising or belonging to a strong party, the chances of an anonymous to succeed are minimal. Few would readily recognise value as most do not exercise the necessary stand alone critical thinking. As such "smaller" but progressive approaches may not be adopted.

    All in all though, while customers are not complaining, nothing can be done. This is the main reason for lethargy. Why are the customers not loudly shouting though?

Because, the visibility of the EA function is low since, for one, EA happens in IT for IT. And even in IT, it has a scarce audience. Not many customers to complain as such.

Because the expectations from an architect are low, since everybody knows by now the dire state of the EA art. The architects are not even hired nowadays with the expectation that they deliver EA. How does an EA look, in fact? Most EA architects do not deliver EA these days.

 Because the EA still fulfills a useful IT governance and design function, which is to establish standards and principles, regulate the solution design and technology utilisation, do roadmapping, IT strategy and way too often though, do solution architectures, while not doing EA.
EA architects are professionals for sure but they lack the tools to do the job.

Mind you, the EA function can be quite expensive when not delivering. Only the EA tools can cost a fortune on an ongoing basis, even if they are little used as it is usually the case. The EAs are expensive choices too for solution architecture.
Then, there is the large amount of attention and costly time the EAs demand only to justify themselves and the EA, again and again.
Beware also of the EAs policing aggressively the IT development. That typically stirs negative reactions and bad press that render the EA process ineffective.

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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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