Enterprise architecture – gettin' there at last…

Just received from Open Group the usual stream of invites to the next TOGAF enterprise-architecture conference, this time in Rome, in late April.

Perhaps it’s just spring or something (which it isn’t here, of course – ‘here’ being cold, damp, grey England), but there’s a real sense of change in the TOGAF air. This time, amazingly, there’s barely a Cloud in the sky: instead, at last, almost all of it is enterprise-architecture. Real enterprise-architecture.

As Enterprise Architecture matures there are many challenges which face the fledgling profession, but perhaps the most troublesome is how to find a way to communicate effectively with the business.

EA is fast becoming a business activity and is leaving behind the safe haven of IT. Language and communication now stand front and center as the current and most critical element of EA but how do we go about overcoming what, for many enterprise architects, is arguably our greatest challenge?

This event provides an ideal opportunity for EA professionals to better understand the overriding need to more closely align the practice of EA with the requirements of business decision-making at ‘board room’ level. It will better prepare all EA professionals to make real and significant contributions to the development of business strategy.

“Communicate with the business”, we might note – not “to the business”, which has been the arrogant attitude of IT for so many years. And being explicit that we need to be “leaving behind the safe haven of IT” is a very important step indeed.

But wait: it gets better:

Evolving EA from IT to Business
Plenary theme (Monday)

We all know that EA is evolving and that gives enterprise architects a problem, because it implies that we have to evolve too.

We also know that we need to get closer to business, to make IT-business alignment a thing of the past. It simply isn’t enough for there to be IT-business alignment, there should only be business with IT being as much a part of the business as finance, sales, marketing or operations.

At this conference we will seek to open up the discussions that we, as enterprise architects need to develop to move forward and embrace the future of EA. Attendees can learn about our key challenges in this field, the different approaches to success and can be guided by those who have overcome the challenge of successfully crossing the divide.

And as a key enabler of this change in focus, EA Professionals need to change the language of EA, from “techie speak” to a much more business-oriented language that relates directly to the organization’s key business functions. The conference will explore a future in which enterprise architects engage in meaningful conversation in the Board Room as a matter of course, and in which the enterprise architecture itself constitutes a key enabler of corporate decision-making.

In other words, that crucial shift from ‘strategic planning’ to ‘strategic conversation‘. At last.

But wait: it gets better still, in business-architecture terms at least:

Extending EA to the Enterprise
Plenary theme (Tuesday)

The Business Architecture is a key component of any Enterprise Architecture, proving the direct linkage between other, IT-related components of the EA and the key strategic drivers and imperatives of the business. It is the key enabler by which Enterprise Architecture can truly extend its reach to the heart of the enterprise.

Those working in the field of Business Architecture are uniquely positioned to establish tomorrow’s best practices. In this session thought-leaders and leading practitioners in Business Architecture will present the critical success factors for today’s Business Architect.

TOGAF is an industry consensus framework and method for enterprise architecture that is used by organizations around the world. TOGAF is a live framework, continually evolving to accommodate best practices. At this conference we will show how TOGAF can be used today to present Business Architecture in a meaningful way to the business.

In other words, for the first time, business-architecture is described by Open Group as a distinct discipline in its own right, separate from but interrelated with IT-architecture. That’s a huge shift: in the TOGAF 9 specification, released barely a year ago, business-architecture was still in effect described as a jumbled-up grab-bag of “everything not-IT that might impact on IT”.

The only point I’m wary of here is that, in escaping from IT-centrism, this version of EA still risks falling straight into the next trap, that of business-centrism or organisation-centrism. No doubt business-folks might prefer us to do that, but in the long run it’s actually as dangerous as IT-centrism. It’s true that business-architecture should be centred round the needs of the business itself – but just like IT-architecture, that’s not enterprise-architecture either.

An organisation is bounded by agreed rules, or, in the case of a business, by legal obligations; but an enterprise is bounded by feelings and values – which is not the same at all. Without a grounded awareness of its extended-enterprise – the surrounding ecosystem within which it operates – business-architecture risks becoming self-centred, literally narcissistic, and guaranteed to fail in the longer term. An architecture that has a broader scope than the business itself becomes essential to guide the architecture of the business – and that’s what a true ‘architecture of the enterprise as enterprise’ will provide.

Even so, the description of this upcoming conference is very good news: a real sign that we’re at last getting closer to a true enterprise-architecture. At last. At last.

1 Comment on “Enterprise architecture – gettin' there at last…

  1. Hello,

    Your right TOM. Enterprise architecture is for the enterprise. There is always a risk with x-centrism. IT centrism was bad, not because IT is bas but because centrism is bad.

    I think that the motto of an enterpise archietct is “Respect all viepoints and all stakeholders”. So, as an enterprise architect, you have to be “viewpoint neutral”.

    A good news that the Architecture Forum and Togaf evolve in this good way.


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