Saturday, January 31, 2009

Enterprise Architecture is Broken

There are so many discussions going on about what IT architecture is, and the most confused seem to be those surrounding enterprise architecture.

The IT profession has the dilemma that it is continuously inventing itself and evolving, and terminology is not standardized as a result. However, many organizations have “enterprise architecture” groups. It is also generally recognized that IT needs to be more business-centric, but seldom does one see a description of what that means. What should IT do differently? What should business do differently?

Recently I proposed an experiment to the online Google group “Enterprise Architecture Network“, as follows: ask a business architect (typically trained in the IT camp) for a model of the architecture of the business: they will likely show you a process flow diagram, showing the DATA flows. Then ask a business person for a model of the same business, and they will show you a model that captures the CASH flows.

My point was that there is a great disconnect between what IT and business each consider to be the business architecture. And I claim that an EA should be able to explain each model, and inter-relate them.

Karl Garrison of that group then responded, “I quite like Cliff’s comments - particularly that EA is about process modeling, while executives think in terms of cash flow. And that they are completely different. This is really right on the mark and explains why many executives may support EA, but don’t want EA to define their business…As a side note, when I’ve worked closely with executives to help identify and analyze acquisitions or define new organizational structures, I’ve found it very helpful to just shut up about EA since it often alienates business folks.” (Emphasis added.)

Well yes, I have found the same thing. Executives don’t see the relevance of enterprise architecture to their plans, because its tangible value has not been articulated. It doesn’t appear in the cash flow model!

In other words, for EA to be relevant to executives, it will have to appear in their models.

And to accomplish that, it will take someone who understands both IT and business well enough to link the IT models with the business models.

Is that person the enterprise architect? You tell me.

- Cliff

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