The State Of Enterprise Architecture In 2011

To paraphrase a now-marginalized US political figure: “How you’all doing?”

Every year, Forrester’s Enterprise Architecture team looks at how enterprise architecture, as a practice and a function within business, is doing. We look at everything from how firms organize their EA programs, to where they are getting their support from, what roles exist within the EA team, completeness of architecture and the degree of standardization, expected technology change, and priorities and challenges. We ask the same questions year over year to discern any trends.

On December 9, we’ll be presenting the results of the 2011 State of Enterprise Architecture survey, compiling the inputs from 543 firms across North America, Europe, and Asia/PAC. (Note: this teleconference is for Forrester clients. A separate teleconference will be offered for non-client respondents to this survey.) A wide variety of industries are represented: financial services, manufacturing, retail, business services, and public sector. A few highlights:

  • The structure of firms’ EA functions continues to shift – with both centralized and completely decentralized increasing. 
  • Architecture staffing continues its growth. The business architect role is one factor driving this growth. 
  • Awareness and support by the broader business and IT organization continue to climb – both by the CIO, other IT functions, and by line of business management. 
  • Drivers for EA show a significant shift – with “improving business agility” rising to the top. 

These shifts, taken together, point to a broader change in the state of enterprise architecture – moving away from its roots as “the technology standards guys” to a more valuable business-focused and strategic role. Of course, for every organization and program making this change, almost as many are not. Progress is slow. Why?

  • Best practices abound for EA as a technical discipline – but are much skimpier for the business aspects.
  • Changes in EA capabilities and changes in stakeholder perceptions and expectations of EA must occur in lockstep to have impact. EA guidance can’t appear like “stock tips from taxi drivers” – guidance that may be good, but the source isn’t viewed as credible.

How well do you think EA is doing in 2012? Do you see signs of this shift? Would you recommend EA as a career to your son or daughter?


EA, Strategy, and Systems Thinking

I'll be curious to learn of any relationships you find between these three. I'm an Enterprise Business Analyst for IIBA, reporting to the Chief Business Analyst (who is on the C-level executive team, with the CEO, COO, and CIO). The CBA has overall responsibility for strategy development, and for preparing the organization for the future. This can mean new products, coordination of existing services and initiatives, building various architectures (technology, HR/org, and business processes all fall under Enterprise Business Analysis), research, and more.

Anecdotally, we've been seeing a distressing lack of systems thinking (not technology systems) in many people who operate in the architectural / strategic spaces in organizations. Concepts like 'Input - Process - Output' have replaced or overwhelmed feedback loops and dynamic systems. For example, consider a simple system, like a turbo engine. The engine burns fuel, and some of the exhaust is fed back into the system to increase performance of the system. Is the exhaust an input or an output? The question is non-sensical; you can answer 'yes, it's neither' or 'no, it's both'. Even simple architectural models should take this kind of recursion into account - and if the model can't, the modeller should.

Good questions, not sure we have the answer

Hi, Julian. Good questions. We know EA in a portion of businesses is getting more involved in strategy, and more on business rather than technology strategy. Their value when they do is that they can bring more systems thinking to the discussion - we see that as one of the key benefits of business architecture is it brings system thinking to business strategy and planning, and makes it more accessible by business leaders. But we haven't surveyed yet on the prevalence of systems thinking in business leaders although it would be very interesting to see the results!

Sounds like you have an interesting organizational model. I've seen many other organizations who have structures to unify business strategy, business change and the process and technology changes necessary to make the strategy and change happen successfully. But these are mostly governance structures - your organization seems like an interesting example of a defined C-level exec for this.


Our organization is interesting, all right. We are advocates for business analysis, of course, and have realized that organizations need to change the way they change, or they are not long for this world. We have also realized that we are an organization, and had better take our own advice! In part this means adopting a holistic approach to products and services - like the Apple ecosystem model. It means being data driven, like Google and Amazon, and having the human infrastructure to conceive of and implement radical change. Having a CBA, with a team of EBAs is a big part of all of this.

EA is increasingly relevant

Would I recommend EA as a career to my son or daughter ?

By that, I believe you are asking; does EA have any future, as a discipline? I would say yes, absolutely.

From a technology perspective, I can't see how the way we currently do things is sustainable without governance. We continue to build new faster than we replace old. We continue to change our approaches to design and architecture. As a result, most enterprises operate with a 30 year legacy of systems, applications, databases and services, that is a complex layer cake, so that integrating anything new is akin to major surgery cutting into layers of; SOA, client/server and mainframe technologies to do anything meaningful. Left ungoverned, what is it going to look like in 5 and 10 years time ? I believe this is why we are seeing the rise of business agility, not because the business is changing any less rapidly rather; IT's arteries are hardening when it comes to accomodating change.

From a business-IT perspective; many organizations have instillled a good project management practice , but we need more than this. The strategic time frame, and enterprise perspective are outside of the range of most PMs vision and is the new frontier. I would argue that competetive advantage from most businesses comes from the kind of programmes that are borne out of strategic thinking, that is realistic and where the business and IT are aligned in what they can achieve. This is the realm of IT strategic planning and business architecture, which are important and increasingly important facets of EA.

The way we've done IT in the past, simply isn't sustainable without a organizational body that provides leadershi and governance of IT and fosters better alignment between the business and IT.