Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Enterprise Architecture has more than one true definition (Sorry Gartner)

I’ve had the opportunity to attend at least one Enterprise Architecture forum / workshop / conference every year for the past ten, a few of them as a speaker. I recently had the good fortune to be among a group of contest evaluators, reviewing submissions to an industry award for Enterprise Architecture. I’ve seen behind the curtains of a lot of EA programs.

Most Enterprise Architecture Programs are really IT Architecture Programs for the Enterprise. First, this is not a bad thing - and I’ll cover why that is in another post. For now, let’s understand the difference between the two and you can determine which program you have.

I am also a martial artist, having studied the Korean art of Tang Soo Do for almost twenty years. I’m a certified teacher and a fourth degree Black Belt - which is to say, I’ve seen the inner workings of the martial arts business.

I have had many conversations with the proprietor of the local Tang Soo Do franchise that could be considered Enterprise Architecture, and yet not a single one of these conversations involved a computer, a computer system, or I.T.

EA is about, literally, architecting the enterprise. Where are your customers, how do you get more of them, and how do you get them to return (or in the parlance of martial arts; not quit). Most martial arts businesses lose over 80% their students before they reach Red Belt level and retaining these students is critical.

A martial arts program can be a corollary for almost any other business - there are elements to most enterprises that have nothing to do with Information Technology. In today’s environment, it is hard to conceive of a business model that does not rely on IT, but to understand the purest definition of Enterprise Architecture; you must separate the business from IT.

Enterprise Architecture is about the fundamental elements of the business, which may and often do include IT, but only as a facilitator of the business - not the core element of EA.

Most companies do not, by this definition, have an EA program, or stated differently, many organizations do not have a contained, singular function or department that operates by this pure definition. Enterprise Architecture is spread out amongst the CEO, the Board of Directors, the CFO, the Manager of Operations, Marketing and HR.

By contrast, many organizations do have an “EA program” that focuses on aligning Information Technology assets and capabilities with the businesses that utilize them. In short the program is really delivering IT Architecture for the Enterprise. Programs of this nature should not be considered weak, immature, or underperforming (Sorry Gartner).

Much of what we see at industry conferences and read from the leading research houses suggests that a true EA program must and only fits the first definition - thus many EA practitioners feel as underachievers, constantly trying to break the ceiling that inhibits them reaching the “one true definition.” I would suggest that delivering IT Architecture for the Enterprise is a noble and valuable endeavor.

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