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Posted by Alex Cullen on March 4, 2011
Forrester sees business empowerment — where business areas seek greater autonomy to address their own technology needs — as an inevitable trend. We’ve seen this before: New technology brings business areas new opportunities to improve their performance — from finance (PCs and spreadsheets) to marketing (web and eCommerce) to sales (PDAs). When this occurred, IT was unconnected to the frontlines of the business; IT’s technology was viewed as hard to use, and the result was business-initiated “shadow IT.”
At the recent Forrester Enterprise Architecture Forum in San Francisco, we offered attendees a copy of the new book Empowered, by Forrester analysts Josh Bernoff and Ted Schadler. To get a copy, attendees had to complete a two-question survey. The questions directly related to their readiness to support this round of business empowerment:
“On a scale of 1-5, where 1 = ‘This doesn’t sound like my company at all’ and 5 = ‘This sounds exactly like my company,’ please rate the following questions about your organization:
212 attendees completed this survey. The results show that IT organizations are only “half ready” for this new round of business empowerment.
First, a little bit about the individuals who completed this survey. They were the most senior staff responsible for EA at their firms, not junior staff. Almost 50% had VP titles, reporting directly to the CIO. More than 15% were business architects from outside of IT — embedded in the business and involved with business transformation and optimization initiatives. They came from firms in a wide range of industries — financial services predominating, but with good representation from government, retail, consumer products, and technology. They represent a good cross-section of where Forrester sees enterprise architecture going, not where it has been.
Only 33% answered that the EA function has close ties with business management. That is, two-thirds of EA teams are not positioned to help IT understand the needs and opportunities of their business.
With regards to technology strategy and standards flexibility, the results were worse: Only 27% indicated readiness to adeptly adopt new technologies; 36% suggested they weren’t at all positioned for this.
The last observation I have compares attendees’ responses to these two questions. 23% of the attendees reported higher technology flexibility but weren’t close to business management — they had flexibility without the business insights to drive it. 31% had stronger ties to business but lower technology flexibility — a prescription for frustration.
So what does this data suggest? First, EA teams are not ready for business empowerment — and realize it. Second, when they are thinking about this, they don’t have a systematic plan to address it.
What would you make of this data? How would you answer these questions for your organization? Post your comments in our Enterprise Architecture Community.
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