Is it Enterprise Architecture or IT Architecture?
In many of the online EA forums I follow, too numerous to mention all by name, I am seeing an increasing amount of participants questioning whether topics are related to EA or not. Generally these topics are about lower-level, technology decisions that while within the purview of the overall EA, are really infrastructure/operations level decisions. Similarly, many EA events (conferences, webinars, podcasts) have participants who are increasingly asking “Is this still really what Enterprise Architecture is all about?”
This all revolves around a theme that I have been writing and talking about lately – the evolution of EA to be more than an IT-centric discipline. Now on the surface, this may seem like an academic discussion. Pragmatically, EA is still an IT organization’s responsibility within the vast majority of organizations worldwide. While there is no dispute that EA started out as an IT-centric approach, most definitions describe EA to be more of a business-strategy driven approach. Also, with the inclusion of Business Architecture as one of the domains of EA, practitioners are beginning to need to enter into the forbidden zone — the board room.
If EA is really going to become a method for “architecting the enterprise” rather than using business strategy as a driver for application, infrastructure and data future states, what is needed? I think one precursor is acknowledged success of the EA contribution within IT. This requires not only the full support of the CIO, but also the devlopment and collection of metics to support the claims of success of EA. Secondly, there needs to be a business transformation effort to which the EA method is applied. I have seen examples of EA being practiced with the business in full partnership (although still primarily applied to decisions within the realm of IT) when there is a major business transformation underway – such as major mergers/acquisitions, changing the business model, or significant modernization. If an EA team can demonstrate visually and financially that their approach can help senior executives think through not only what their business strategies should be, but also the steps to take to execute those strategies, then EA can begin to fulfill its long-held promise as a business transformation enabler.
The question that I will leave you all with is this: Can EA be successfully evolved to become a tool of business strategic planners, senior executives and boards of directors if we continue to call it Enterprise Architecture?
This may sound like a trite question, but for most of us that have been practicing Enterprise Architecture for many years, we realize that semantics count. I believe that in most organizations, the connotations associated with EA are so strongly IT-centric, that it will hinder the ability to transfer the method within the business community.
What else could we call it? More on that later.