Where the EA team sits in the business

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Correspondent: The concerns of IT people are but one item on the "complexity reduction" agenda that business executives should be willing to sponsor.

The good news is that there is an increasing awareness that something has to give, and that the solution is not rooted in IT.


Reply: For several years now, there has been a polemic against the EA team being employed in the IT department.

Still, there good reasons why EA teams emerged to address issues recognised by IT people.

Complexity reduction does depend on understanding, standardising and integrating information systems.


Who has a cross-organisational budget for EA?

IT may be the “shared service” function with the largest budget.

IT people see the pain of suboptimal system fragmentation and duplication, but can't find a sponsor outside of IT-literate people.


Who has the widest cross-organisational view?

IT people often do see cross-organisational waste.

Line-of-business managers may not see the pain of overlaps and duplications in systems.

They buy new off-the-shelf packages and cloud solutions that further duplicate and don’t integrate.


Who has the longest-term view?

IT systems are long-term investments.

IT road maps project further into the future than the next report to shareholders that the CEO is focused on.

EAs are inclined and trained to take a strategic and cross-organisational view.

Many CIOs, business and project managers are inclined to take a more tactical or local view of things.

They focus on operational services management issues.

They are given little by way of KPIs for long-term goals.

They see little benefit in being proved right 3 years down the line.

It is often hard to make a convincing numerical business case for anything strategic; the numbers are guesses.

“EAs need skills to keep business managers committed.” Lyndon D'Oliveiro


Who understands process definition and information systems?

A core focus of EA is on the creation and use of information by business processes.

It is about optimisation of those business processes that are supported by business information systems.

The reality is that business managers see business information systems as the responsibility of IT people.

They find the design of processes, data and rules difficult and boring, so they have passed the buck to the IT department.

I can't see them taking the buck back, though they may make things worse (for EA) by dismembering the IT department.


Who has required skills?

Business managers are busy running their business.

They need people with the vision, will and ability to see any EA initiative through.

Designing, building and delivering the digitisation, standardisation and integration of business processes requires both abstract and painstakingly detailed intellectual effort.

Business managers need those nerdy, systematic, completer thinkers who gravitate into IT (rather than business management).


Where is EA today?

A survey of EA maturity by MIT CISR (ref. 4) suggested that 94% of EA effort is aimed at rationalisation of technology, data and application portfolios.

About the same proportion of those on our EA training courses report to a CIO or somebody who reports to a CIO or IT director.


Some EA teams focus on platform technology road maps, data centres, cloud computing etc.

Other EA teams focus more on the business application portfolio, where necessary in partnership with some kind of business change team(s).


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.


Correspondent: The problem with EA is often about the branding (“EA”) and perception of that term.

Jason Bloomberg captures it nicely in this article:


In other words, folks will start off doing work before realising it is actually EA.

If EAs are lucky (and connected) they can influence folks before they go too far.

But EAs will always be the bridesmaid and never the bride, as long as they are branded ‘enterprise architects’.

To that extent, the Centre of Digital Excellence (CODE) is a good place to put EAs so folks know their purpose.

The ‘EA team’ or “CODE team” should look after (steward) the information that all other folks need as part of their decision-making. 


Reply: To my eyes, the JB piece is very well-written froth.

If the EA team manager has the "right" personality he'll get through to managers.

If he doesn't, I doubt changing his team name will help.


I guess I have to accept that my "get real" message is not popular.

I do think that over-generalised and over-hyped definitions of EA have long been part of the problem.

What was and is wrong with "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 http://avancier.website contain much advice relating to EA.


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