Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Is Enterprise Architecture a Technology Function?

I did well in school (after High School cough, cough). I especially liked the sciences and courses that involved analytical thinking.

If A = B, and B = C, then A= C.

This is a simple axiom that most of us learned when we took that one required course in logic. I’m going to share another one with you that is a bit longer - but first, a little background.

Every Enterprise Architect I know either started in Information Technology or worked in I.T. for some time. The natural assumption is that Enterprise Architecture is a function of the I.T. department. Is this correct? If not, why not?

I’ve written before about the differences between Enterprise Architecture and “IT Architecture for the Enterprise.” To further the understanding, let me state that Enterprise Architecture is related to I.T., but only to the degree that some goals of a business can be achieved only through the proper use of Information Technology (I.T. or IT).

Enterprise Architecture could have been a useful profession at the time of Christopher Columbus, long before computers. In his aspiration to improve trade with the East Indies, Columbus attempted to find a shortcut across the globe. This is Enterprise Architecture; understanding what capabilities are needed to achieve a business advantage.

Columbus' plan would have worked had it not been for that pesky continent in the way. If only he had talked to an Enterprise Viking first.

In the modern era, computers dominate the underpinnings of almost every aspect of business operations, so it is only natural that Enterprise Architecture frequently leverages I.T. in the delivery of new solutions.

This is a trap. Here’s the logic - take a breath...

EA frequently leverages IT because IT is an important capability of Business, not because EA is an element of IT. Stated another way, EA is an element of a Business that often leverages IT.

Or, most succinctly still; EA =/= IT.

Every organization needs an Enterprise Architecture function (even if it’s called something else). Gartner Group, Forrester Research, Microsoft, IBM, and leading organizations across the globe have found that the most successful companies elevate EA out of I.T. to drive innovation, capability, and meet business aspirations.

1 comment:

  1. Think for a minute Eric why firms confuse Enterprise Architecture and IT enterprise architecture for the enterprise and using your model lets look back and find an analogy - project management.

    Where do most firms have their strongest project management practices - and more importantly why? The first part is easy - in IT. But why ? - Why because 'necessity is the mother of invention' or to put it anohter way, because that's where the need for complex project management skills first appeared and in that nature abhors a vacuum, that's where the modern complex project management skills were first nurtured and grown. I would submit to you that EA is a parallel, that solid IT EA blossomed and grew and that business then used that as a springboard or building block to build their EA proficiencies, sometimes not separating the two.


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