Gartner et al. – gettin’ there on EA

Nice to see that even the ‘big fish’ are finally ‘gettin’ there’ on the real scope of enterprise-architecture…

A month ago we saw Open Group begin to re-frame their previous IT-centred approach to EA into a new style of ‘enterprise transformation’. (The conference was still more IT than anything else, of course, but at least it’s a solid move in the right direction.)

Then a couple of weeks back it was academic and EA-luminary Jeanne Ross making clear her opinion that enterprise-architecture does not belong in IT, under the CIO. To quote her interview in, “companies need to acknowledge that ‘architecture says everything about how the company is going to function, operate, and grow; the only person who can own that is the CEO'”.

And now it’s Gartner, at this year’s Gartner Enterprise Architecture Summit in London earlier this week. I wasn’t able to get there this time, as I’m currently ensconced in central-America working on a bunch of EA-related projects; but fortunately the indefatigable Gerold Kathan was there, sending out a whole stream of useful tweets:

  • gkathan: #entarch has no value until it is acted upon – deliverables should not be confused with value #gartnerEA
  • gkathan: customize and adapt your #entarch framework – industry frameworks should be used for inspiration, not perspiration #gartnerEA
  • gkathan: bringing something new like #entarch into top level management is hard: they will treat it as enemy in the beginning #gartnerEA
  • gkathan: “EDD” is impacting application lifecycle: “executive deficit disorder” – short term focus and irrational decisions #gartnerEA

But what really caught my eye was this little beauty:

  • gkathan: you have to reach out the 4 walls of your organization – extended enterprise includes e.g communities #gartnerEA

To which I can only sigh ‘Hooray!’

I’ve no idea which of the Gartner consultants it was who said it; and since Gartner itself seems to have a policy of not crediting ‘outsiders’, I’ve also no idea if that comment has any link to the various conversations I’ve had with Gartner folks over the years. But just for the record, here’s my version of the full scope that an organisation’s EA must address, all the way out beyond the market to communities and more:

I’ve used a few variants of that in my EA presentations over the years – such as ‘What is an enterprise?‘ and the very-popular ‘The enterprise is a story‘ – but that’s the core idea, anyway. Nice to see that Gartner too is at last officially acknowledging that kind of scope for EA.

On the other side, I ought to acknowledge another ‘big fish’ that sort-of got there quite a long time ago. I was trawling through my downloads on this little-used netbook, and came across a report from Infosys – ‘Enterprise Architecture Expands Its Role In Strategic Business Transformation‘ [PDF] – from way back in 2008. It seems that even back then, the IT-centrism that still dominates ‘the trade’ was beginning to be challenged a lot more than most of the ‘big fish’ would be willing to admit:

Architecture steps out of the scope of IT and becomes part of planning and implementing strategy. In 22% of responding organizations, architectural processes are already being used for general business transformation.

And there’s this in the report, too:

Transformation is implemented in multiple streams within multiple units and functions of the firm. Today’s approach of architecture – looking at everything outside of IT as ‘the business’, and trying to access it through fairly generic, coarse-grained models – is bound to fail. A future enterprise-architecture will be ‘the architecture of the enterprise’. It will need to address the whole organization and each of its functions through appropriate models which are meaningful to the specialists of each area, and help them drive transformation. This means that it will have to provide structured models to represent architectures for production, research, finance and HR – much as it has for IT.

There’s a subtle trap in that that view is still centred around the organisation – ‘inside-in’ or ‘inside-out’, rather than the essential ‘outside-in’ view indicated in the Gartner quote above –  but at least it’s a lot broader than the obsessive IT-centric view that predominated then, and is still all too common even now. Credit where credit’s due – and worth reading the rest of the interestingly prescient report, too.

Gettin’ there, anyway – slowly, perhaps a bit too slowly for comfort still, yet we are gettin’ there. Feels good.

7 Comments on “Gartner et al. – gettin’ there on EA

  1. Tom,

    Good to see you keep track of the ‘big-fish’. Disruptive Innovation more likely than not happens from the periphery, not the ‘big-fish’. They will be the last to acknowledge that EA does not belong to IT, because their primary clientele are CIOs. By saying EA does not belong to IT, when in almost all cases it is the CIO who brings them in, directly impacts their current business model. It is a delicate balance – if they embrace this new mental model that we have been advocating then it could impact their business, if they don’t then they are not viewed as thought-leaders. I am sure if any big-fish today mentions anywhere that EA belongs to IT, they’d be hounded by the audience. This is because, we have disseminated this new mental model beyond its tipping point – and the big-fish have no choice, but to join in.

    I am glad to interact with like-minded experts like you, and together lead the transformation in thinking.


  2. Hi Pallab

    Yep. 🙂 It’s been going on for a while now. I remember writing a post about this almost two years ago: ‘Hoist by their own petard‘. The behaviour of the ‘big fish’ would be bleakly amusing if it hadn’t caused so much mess that will now still take years and much expense to sort out… Hey ho…

    In the meantime we keep on plodding on, ‘fighting the good fight’ and suchlike, yes? 😐 🙂

  3. Some of us have some gray hair waiting … some even missing some. However, I’m thrilled EA is starting to be seen for what it truly is. maybe it’s because so many IT people need more work! LOL

  4. Most current EA initiatives generally state the following as the reasons to do EA (strongly advocated by the big-fish and the so called luminaries):

    1. Application consolidation / re-engineering.
    2. Business process efficiency
    3. Technology standardization
    4. Business-IT alignment
    5. Service delivery
    6. Resource optimization
    7. Functional integration
    8. ……..
    9. …

    Besides the fact that nearly all of these are IT-centric, they are also overwhelmingly “housekeeping” type of activities that are retrospective in nature, i.e. trying to fix mess that already exists. Sure, these might bring in some benefits, but they clearly lack the “forward-thinking” type of activities. Enterprise Architecture (and Enterprise Architects) must provide foresight to the rest of the enterprise. The foresight then enables the leadership to envision the future.

  5. It’s quite funny how this is playing out internally in big corporations. Just this past Friday I was wrapping up a week of working with executives responsible for customer strategy…originally I was brought in by IT to help create an integrated transformation plan and road-map. They were consistently referring to me as part of the technology team. I just smiled and continued to listen and talk with them about their strategy, needing to focus on an outside in approach, etc, etc… There main desire to have me on the project or architecture for that matter is to work on some of the list of things Pallab has called out in an effort to secure funding from the IT department.

    Anyhow, I began to put together a story of their strategy, the transformation that the Enterprise was going to have to undertake and all the various components of that and the sponsor turned to me and said…”Wow, I’m truly sorry. Please excuse my ignorance. Your actually working for me, it took me a little bit to figure this out.”

    Was great and now he sees Enterprise Architecture in a whole different light.

    This external drive, architects with the right understanding of EA, along with Enterprises feeling the pressure to change from an inside out perspective will only help our cause. Anyhow, hope all is well with you Tom. I know you made me feel right about my thinking and approach, I’m positive your influence has alot to do with Gartner’s thinking as well.

  6. @Pallab Saha – Hi Pallab – as you’ve probably seen already, I’ve answered this one back on the ‘Six Things’ discussion in the LinkedIn group.

    Quick summary: yes, strongly agree about it being a) almost all IT-only, and b) almost all about ‘clean up the mess’. And, as you say, ‘clean up the mess’ is only one part of the overall picture.

    What I’ve added to this is exactly where each part such as ‘clean up the mess’ and ‘strategy top-down’ fits into the EA picture, following the maturity-model and matching development-plan that I described in Doing Enterprise Architecture. The relevant first part of the book is in the free-download sample-ebook that’s accessible from that link. Would be very interested to see your comments on that at some time! 🙂 Hope it’s of interest, anyway.

    Thanks again!

  7. @Adam Johnson – “Please excuse my ignorance. You’re actually working for me, it took me a little while to figure this out.” What a great story! – well done!

    Many thanks also for the compliment 🙂 Yet note that the most important point there is that I only provided some of the ideas, whereas you put those ideas into real-practice – which is where it really counts. Important to acknowledge the real hard work that you did there to make that outcome happen: credit where credit’s due on that, I think?

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