Get real: EA is political (on the “value” of EA)


This is published under the terms of the licence summarized in the footnote.

All free-to-read materials on the Avancier web site are paid for out of income from Avancier’s training courses and methods licences.

If you find them helpful, please spread the word and link to the site in whichever social media you use.



What is "the value of EA"?  

It is a political and/or professional judgement with as many answers as there are stakeholders.
EA could mean:

1.      A team of professionals doing stuff - often employed on work that isn't EA.

2.      A set of processes and products like TOGAF - often used for work that isn't EA.

3.      A repository - often used for solution/project level documentation.


To demonstrate the value of EA implies we can measure and compare the values of doing it and not doing it.

Value could mean the benefit less cost of 1 and/or 2 and/or 3. It could include or exclude their use for things other than EA.

Generally speaking, there are no convincing numbers; it is impossible to measure any of these things in a convincingly objective way.

The EA team is a group of professionals who design and/or govern systems and system changes that support and enable business roles processes with a view to the effectiveness, efficiency, cross-organisational standardisation and integration of those systems.

Discussion between architects and business people is much about how business roles and processes are best digitised.

It is impossible to measure how far "EA" helps with that, since it would be done to some extent without an EA team or framework.

(And is sometimes now considered the role of a "Chief Digital Officer".)

The value of the EA team is a judgement call made by its sponsors.

The extent to which a business buys into an EA team (and any framework it uses) is mostly a political and professional judgement.

And whether EA is perceived to succeed or not as much down to the team members as any EA framework.

The value of EA processes and products is to the EA team (rather than business managers) and those values are judgement calls made by the professionals in that EA team.

EA frameworks emerged partly out of a recognition that the digitised systems of a business are in a mess, disintegrated, inflexible etc.

It is impossible to value how far an EA framework helps to reduce the cost and risk of running with the current system estate.
Since the cost and risk would be addressed to some extent without an EA team or framework.


This paper collects and distils points from discussions over several years about:

·         the goals of an EA team

·         the value of EA-level thinking about IT systems

·         the difficulties of measuring "value" objectively

·         the challenge of maintaining sponsorship for EA through changing times and sponsors.


It suggests reasons why EA is challenging, why many EA team members are deployed as solution architects, and why “Guerilla EA” may be accepted as an alternative to top-down EA.

EA politics and pains

Correspondent: What is the purpose of the paper?


Reply: The general aim is to be realistic, to reflect the experiences of EA team members.

And to challenge those glib elevator pitches for EA that can have the reverse effect of what is hoped, and to make some suggestions.


Correspondent: Does every business need an EA team?


Reply: Some business managers are looking for a "transformation", but not all, perhaps not many.

It is not unknown for a business to form, disband and reform an EA team.

This paper suggests EA teams may survive lean times by doing solution architecture, risk management and “guerilla EA”.


Correspondent: I have hammered into me if you cannot define a benefit between doing something and doing nothing, then take the option that requires the least work.


Reply: Managers may ask us to quantify the value of an endeavour.

Of course "value" means something different to every stakeholder for whom a value proposition may be drawn up.

Whose valuation matters, how it is quantified are open to widely different interpretations.

Many big decisions (investment in a high-speed railway, or going to war) are made with a questionable business case.

The biggest management decisions are often speculative and somewhat risky ventures.

Correspondent: For me, the value of EA depends on the pains being suffered by the business.


Reply: Yes. For many potential sponsors, a principal value of EA is pain relief, but they have first to recognise the pain.

And senior management pain is often a feeling rather than a number.


Correspondent: E.g. The pain of poor business and IT alignment is reduced when EA translates between the two and works through issues before IT starts solution design or deployment.


Reply: That is solution architecture and risk management rather than EA.

But it is a great thing to do, and by doing it, an EA team can build respect for discussion of more EA-level proposals.

Correspondent: What general pains are there, to be contextualised for each scenario?


Reply: The paper refers to these pains:

1 Regulation, 2 Multi-channel customer interactions, 3 Fragmented systems, 4 Product proliferation, 5 Geographic expansion,

6 Poor data quality or management information, 7 Weak risk management, 8 Rigid systems and 9 IT costs.

It is your job to find the pains your managers feel, and EA can address.


The rationale and place of EA

EITHER read each of the following short papers for discussion of each topic OR click here for an abbreviated PDF version  


·         Who values the “enterprise as a system”?

·         Effective implementation of business goals

·         Simplification and cross-organisational integrity

·         Return on investment in systems    (On cost cutting)

·         Reduction of operational or change risk

·         Increased business and IT agility

·         Focus on process rather than organisation

·         Where EA sits in the business


Conclusions and remarks

There will always be trade-offs, such as between global integrity and local agility.

And now and then, architects are obliged to implement systems purchased by senior managers after lunch with a salesman.


Guerrilla EA does what it can with minimal sponsorship to tidy up the mess.

EA teams wanting more sponsorship should try to clarify the operational costs of uncontrolled duplication, variation and disintegration.

And also to clarify the political value of change – which means addressing the pains, threats and opportunities felt by sponsor-level decision makers.


Pains include:

1 Regulation, 2 Multi-channel customer interactions, 3 Fragmented systems, 4 Product proliferation, 5 Geographic expansion,

6 Poor data quality or management information, 7 Weak risk management, 8 Rigid systems and 9 IT costs.

It is your job to find the pains your managers feel, and EA can address.


This paper’s "get real" message is unpopular with some.

However, over-generalised and over-hyped definitions of “EA” may well be part of the problem.

What was and is wrong with the title "Business Systems Planning"?




Ref. 1: TOGAF 9.1, The Open Group.

Ref. 2: Oxford Dictionary of Proverbs. Cf. 1942 G. Ciano Diary 9 Sept. (1946) II.

Ref. 3: Heylighen F. (1992): "Evolution, Selfishness and Cooperation", Journal of Ideas, Vol 2, # 4, pp 70-76.

Ref. 4: “EA as Strategy” Ross, Weill and Robertson.

Ref. 5: ArchiMate v2 standard, The Open Group.


The papers on the “Enterprise Architecture” page at contain much advice relating to EA.



Footnote: Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works Licence 2.0     17/04/2015 22:56

Attribution: You may copy, distribute and display this copyrighted work only if you clearly credit “Avancier Limited:” before the start and include this footnote at the end.

No Derivative Works: You may copy, distribute, display only complete and verbatim copies of this work, not derivative works based upon it.

For more information about the licence, see