Will EA Groups disappear in 2009?

EA viability in the current economy is a hot topic these days.  Just last week I was asked to respond to a statement recently read by one of our workshop attendees.  It said that “Half of all EA projects will disappear this year because they can’t demonstrate business value”.

My immediate reaction was that it wasn’t such a surprising statement.  Historically, in any given year, many EA groups disappeared regardless of what was going on in the world economy, boom or bust.  They faded because they were EA groups in name only, not doing EA work, or they were doing EA poorly.  Sometimes it was because they tried to do too much EA too fast, or their internal champions left, their sponsors got a sudden case of “short-termism” (sometimes for good reason), their team members moved on, or any of a number of other reasons.  A common thread was that they were not demonstrating value relevant to the needs at the time.

How is this year any different?  Not that much.  In our short-term oriented culture, the climate for forward-thinking enterprise wide planning has always been rare.  Nonetheless, organizations continue to work to improve their EA programs and many are introducing new ones for the first time or restarting past attempts.  Why?  Both IT and business leaders are telling us that they recognize that their past behaviors have been fragmented and have caused churn, lack of focus and wasteful spending.  Many are burdened by inflexible, un-integrated solutions and excessively costly and complex portfolios.  They are looking for a simplified and disciplined direction to guide them as they trim costs and position for the future, so they can do so in a strategically targeted fashion.

So, don’t over-react to “half will fail” statements.  The EA discipline is alive and well, or at least no worse than before.  Should you ignore the signs and continue EA as in the past?  Probably not.  A solid EA leader always adjusts his/her approach with the times, biases and needs of their enterprise.  Make sure you are focused, delivering value and addressing the needs of leadership.  And don’t forget to be leaders yourselves – provide enterprise perspective and context so that decisions are consistent with both short term needs and longer term visions.  If you make your EA program more transparent and actionable, while focusing on the right balance, you will be among the half that DON’T disappear!