Who Decides?

Do you sometimes feel that your EA standards don’t carry any weight? You create them, publish them, and then when it comes time to apply them you find yourself re-justifying the standard or even justifying the need for standards in the first place? Even commonly accepted de facto standards with long histories in an organization can fall prey and need to be re-justified before each use.

It’s a very common story and it points to a fundamental weakness in EA governance. Compliance processes and design reviews alone aren’t the answer – they can often lead to accusations that you are acting like the “EA police”.  An organization needs a robust EA approval process as well.

Most organizations, regardless of maturity and for a variety of reasons, need to address/re-address the question of “who decides?” when it comes to standards, roadmaps and the overall EA strategic direction. The key to success is that some degree of meaningful standards must be decided in advance of the need to actually apply them.  Enterprise Architects, though, SHOULDN’T be the ones to decide (or enforce) standards. Why not, and if not, who should?

Independent EA authority may work for the least controversial EA decisions, but it usually won’t stand up for the big ones or when more powerful or influential leaders choose to go a different way. The root of decision-making authority for EA rests with the body that makes policy and investment decisions for the organization.

Is that practical, or even plausible? It is if implemented in a model that relies on layers of decision-making authority, with delegation pushed downward, while accountability is maintained upward to that ultimate root authority.