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In the future, what will be the role of the enterprise architect?

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A question that kicks off this blog on Information Week, or as Forrester Research VP Gene Leganza asked in even starker terms at the Enterprise Architecture Forum 2011 in San Francisco in his talk, "Enterprise Architecture In The Year 2020: Strategic Nexus or Oblivion?"

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  • My view in the past is that EA's typically had the view, "it's our way, or the highway". Even if that meant a 1, 3, r or 10 year wait for the Nirvana being proposed!

    EA's are invaluable but this attitude can be stifling. I am seeing EA's becoming more and more open thanks probably to agile and them now realizing the economy moves so fast, immediate business needs MUST be addressed, not ignored.

    Combine all of this together and you can mix the goal of Nirvana with serious tactical benefits to the Enterprise.

    So, unless your IT shop has everything in the cloud (unlikely), the role of the EA is critical but one that must be adapted to work so that many more tactical decisions are made on a path to the strategic goal.

    My 2 cents.

  • The role of an EA has always been and will always be to implement an organization's business strategy with a supporting and complementing IT strategy. Different companies have different names and reporting structures for this role depending on their size, vertical, and geographical location. Some call the role an EA, some a business architect, some a chief architect, and some call that role a CTO or CIO, but the role always exists. The biggest game changer that I see is this global, innovation-based economy is just accelerating the pace at which "EA"s that don't fit this role are exposed and replaced.

  • The enterprise architecture plays a key role in ensuring alignment between processes, technology and the organization, yet I see difficulty in becoming something dynamic because of the continued lack of governance in strategy and business processes.
    Enterprise architecture seems to be used for the discovery and definition of processes, but then fails in its evolution. For example: imagine that 5 years ago a company implemented a complaints management process and thought through all the points of contact and applications designed to support the process.
    Two years after Facebook becomes massive and other social sites of regional dominance like Orkut in Brazil are a standard where customers complain. The company detects the need to provide an opportunity to capture the negative feedback in the process and integrate this new possibility. Therefore, the architecture has to be revised. Twitter appears and simultaneously the company introduces a new policy of blocking social networks because of the lack of productivity, which means that it needs to be defined who can access social networks to make complaints handling. Later the company it is a restructuring mode. Some people who once responsible for complaints handling now they cannot access to social networks and it must be open to others who replaced them. Complex isn’t it? Enterprise architecture should be able to evolve all these changes, but I feel that is still used in the initial conceptualization of a particular problem rather than have the capacity to evolve the business dynamics.

  • In the talk the ebizQ folks referenced, I illustrated three possible scenarios for EA in the future: EA rises, EA is marginalized, and EA falls. It’s important to keep in mind that just as EA’s value to the organization is a mixed bag today, it will be varied in the future as well — I’m not a believer of a one-size-fits-all approach to EA, where you can read about EA best practices, follow the rules religiously, and be guaranteed EA success. Politics just makes that unlikely.

    However, EA programs as a whole are more influential than they were 10 years ago, and I believe they’ll be more influential 10 years from now. Why? The adoption of business architecture practices finally makes all this IT architecture relevant to business execs. And because participating in business architecture processes gets business execs hooked on the kind of planning processes that result in detailed project plans rather than strategy docs that sit on shelves, it’s the kind of planning that can be directly linked to governance.

    In my talk I used the three scenarios to get the issues on the table, and I’m presenting that at our London EA Forum in a couple weeks and as a Forrester teleconference on March 24 if you want the details. The biggest problem IT faces is the wave of business empowerment that has an increasingly tech-savvy business population combining with an explosion of self-service technology. This trend threatens to marginalize the IT organization, and with it, IT-based EA. This will heighten the need to do what the other commenters here have said: get really good at dynamically integrating tactical needs with strategic plans.

    But here’s the biggest change I see coming: Up to now, we’ve used the term “enterprise architecture? rather freely, at least half the time really meaning “IT architecture.? We’ll be a lot more careful about that in the future. Why? IT architecture will live on the IT side of the organization, while the EA role will move into the business side along with business architecture, the portfolio view of application architecture, and business-oriented aspects of information architecture. EA will be about the integration of all the other architecture domains in service of the business strategy, and by 2020, the tech-savvy business population will not want that to be an IT function. And we won’t call it “EA? anymore, it’ll be “Enterprise Planning And Sustainability,? or some term the business can actually relate to. EAs will be “planners,? “integrators,? or “sustainability experts.? I see this as potentially a very good thing, fulfilling EA’s original promise, but the bifurcation of EA into business- and IT-side architecture organizations can also lead to unproductive conflict (the politics don’t go away!).

    Gene Leganza is a vice president and principal analyst at Forrester Research, where he serves Enterprise Architecture professionals.

  • The role of the EA must take a role akin to the Architect in Construction. Has a key role to play, but follows business expectations and even desires.

    Currently, the concept of Enterprise Architecture is trying to find its place in a domain where it never was there in the form it aspires to be in.

    Enterprise Architecture will definitely exist in the future as long as it allows business to own and itself to structure what the business owns.

    There must be a clear segregation of ownership between Strategy and Structure. I recommend EAs to be limited to Structure that helps Strategy achieve its objectives.

    In our organization the EA program was shelved even before it started (and I strongly recommended it to be shelved) simple because there was no clear ownership defined and responsibility leads to results.

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