Pinning enterprise architecture to the org chart

Recent discussion during the Open Group’s Seattle conference shows that we’re still not done debating the place of Enterprise Architecture (EA) in an organisation.

For one thing, EA is still a bit of a minority sport, as Tim Westbrock reminded everyone: 99+% of organisations don’t do EA, or, at least, not consciously. Nonetheless, impressive, linear, multi-digit growth in downloads and training in The Open Group’s Architectural Framework (TOGAF) indicates that an increasing number of organisations want to surface their structure.

Question is: where does that activity sit?

Traditionally, most EA practice comes out of the IT department, because the people in it recognise that an adequate IT infrastructure requires a holistic view of the organisation and its mission. As a result, extraordinary amounts of time and energy are spent on thinking about, engaging with, thinking as or generally fretting about “the business” in EA circles. To the point that IT systems or infrastructure are considered unmentionable.

While morally laudable, I fear that this anxiety is a tad futile if “the business” is unwilling or unable to understand anything about IT – as it frequently seems to –, but that’s just my humble opinion.

Mike Rollins of the Burton Group seems to be thinking along similar lines, in his provocative notion that EA is not something that you are, but something that you do. That is, in order for an architectural approach to be effective, you shouldn’t have architects (in the IT department or elsewhere), but you should integrate doing EA into the general running of the organisation.

Henri Peyret of Forrester wasn’t quite so willing to tell an audience of a few hundred people to quit their jobs, but also emphasised the necessity to embed EA in the general work of the organisation. In practical terms, that the EA team should split their time evenly between strategic work, and regular project work.

Tim Westbrock did provide a sharper contrast with the notion of letting EA become an integral part of the whole organisation inasmuch as he argued that, in a transformative scenario, the business and IT domains become separate. The context, though, was his plea for ‘business architecture’, which, simplifying somewhat, looks like EA done by non-IT people using business concepts and language. In such a situation, the scope of the IT domain is pretty much limited to running the infrastructure and coaching ‘the business’ in the early phases of the deployment of a new application that they own.

Stuart MacGregor of realIRM was one of the few who didn’t agonise so much about who’d do EA and where, but he did make a strong case for two things: building and deploying EA capacity long term, and spending a lot of time on the soft, even emotional side of engaging with other people in the organisation. A consequence of the commitment to the long term is to wean EA practices of their addiction to ‘quick wins’ and searches for ‘burning platforms’. Short term fixes nearly always have unintended consequences, and don’t necessarily do anything to fix the underlying issues.

Much further beyond concerns of who and where is the very deep consideration of the concepts and history of ‘architecture’ as applied to enterprise of Len Fehskens of the Open Group. For cyberneticians and soft systems adepts, Len’s powerpoint treatise is probably the place to start. Just expect your heckles to be raised.


Tim Westbrock’s slides on Architecting the Business is Different than Architecting IT

Mike Rollins’ slides on Enterprise Architecture: Disappearing into the Business

Henry Peyret’s slides on the Next generation of Enterprise Architects

Stuart MacGregor’s slides on Business transformation Powered by EA

Len Feshkens slides on Rethinking Architecture

3 thoughts on “Pinning enterprise architecture to the org chart

  1. Thanks Wilbert, very useful summary & links to presentations. Not surprisingly, I agree with quite a lot of what’s in the Westbrock & Rollins presentations – but whilst I’m pleased to see the Open Group getting into the discussion about IT/Business Architectures etc, can’t help feeling that it perpetuates the view that somehow IT & the Business are separate things.

    Also whilst I can easiily agree that EA is not something you are, but something you do (haven’t I heard that before somewhere?) & also that Architecture approaches should be embedded in the organisation, not just carried out by ‘Architects’, I think that given the level of maturity in EA in a lot of organisations – particularly EA beyond IT – there’s quite a journey still to be made, & a need for some directions/roadmaps.

  2. John,

    I agree that we need to erase the divide between business and IT. We are all businesspeople. The more we remember that IT’s primary purpose is to enable business outcomes, the more healthy EA and IT will become.

    Mike Rollings
    Research Director
    Burton Group

  3. Pingback: Wilbert’s work blog» Blog Archive » Enterprise Architecture throws out bath water, saves baby in the nick of time

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