Assessing EA Maturity isn’t all that helpful – Here’s a Better Approach

Most current discussions on EA Maturity focus on backward-looking metrics and score them based on levels that are similar to the Capability Maturity Model (CMM) process improvement system developed by the Systems Engineering Institute at Carnegie Mellon University.  Over the past several years we have started to develop a different opinion about using CMM-type assessments for enterprise architecture processes.  Here’s why:

1.       CMM was originally developed for project-level systems engineering capabilities. While some of the concepts are applicable to an enterprise-level planning process, the measures of success are not. Systems engineering is more tangible such that improved process maturity results in more successful outcomes. The same is generally not true of EA.

2.       After many years of experience conducting CMM-like assessments, it became clear that the exercise of collecting the responses to questionnaires aimed at rating EA capability maturity on a scale of 1 to 5 rarely resulted in any kind of consensus on levels of maturity.  That exercise usually led to some very valuable discussions, but the rating itself was far too subjective and inaccurate.

3.       The measure of maturity itself tends to rise with age; however, the outcomes may or may not be improving as maturity increases.

For most organizations  it is better to accept the subjective nature of EA and assess the capabilities of an EA program, not its maturity.  The goal is to identify how effective the program is within the organization.  The categories are similar to the ones that are traditionally seen in EA maturity, but adjusted to measure against a scale ranging from “significantly inhibits effectiveness” to “significantly enables effectiveness”.

This type of assessment is a step forward in helping an EA team to better understand its opportunities for improvement, the obstacles to overcome and its leverageable strengths.  The best measure of success is still going to be the impact on shareholder value.  Being effective is a surer path to increasing shareholder value than being mature.