New Focus Of EA: Preparing For An "Age Of Agility"


    I just recently had a conversation with Peter Hinssen, one of our keynote speakers at Forrester’s colocated CIO Forum and EA Forum in Las Vegas (May 3-4) and our EMEA CIO Forum and EA Forum in Paris (June 19-20). 

   Peter is both a dynamic speaker and a provocative thought-leader on the rapidly changing relationship of technology, business, and “the business function called IT.” Here’s a short summary of this conversation — and a preview of what he will be talking about at our forums.


On “The New Normal”:

Technology has stopped being “technology,” and digital has just become “normal”: We’ve entered the world of the “New Normal.” The rate of change of the technology world has become the beat to which markets transform. But the rate of change “outside” companies is now faster than the internal velocity of organizations. But how will companies evolve to cope with the changes as a result of the New Normal? How will organizations evolve to respond quickly enough when markets turn into networks of intelligence?

What this means for IT:

The focus of IT in the past has been on implementation. IT departments were created to implement new technology to help the business. That is no longer enough. The New Normal is forcing IT to shift drastically towards innovation.

But it’s not enough to have bright people come up with bright ideas. You have to reconstruct your organization, your company, to be agile, nimble, and above all fast enough.

At the same time in the New Normal, we see an explosion of information. Information is the new currency. Information is the new oil. We produce more information than ever before, and we have to gather more information than we can manage. It’s not just the information inside our companies, but the vast amount of information that is being generated OUTSIDE our companies by our customers that we have to understand.

The consequence for IT is that IT will have to transform itself entirely to keep being relevant for our companies. IT will have to reinvent itself for the New Normal.

Do we need a new EA?

Absolutely. The focus of the old EA was on technology standardization. The focus of the new EA will be on preparing for an age of agility. The old focus of EA was on providing solutions that were “built to last.” The focus of the new EA will be on providing solutions that are “designed to change.”

To my readers: What do you think? Do you see signs of this shift to the New Normal? Or do you see more signs that IT and EA functions are struggling with this shift — perhaps failing to make it? Reply with your thoughts here — and join us at Forrester’s Enterprise Architecture Forum 2012 (Las Vegas, May 3-4) or Forrester's Enterprise Architecture Forum EMEA 2012 (Paris, June 19-20)!


New Normal and IT Agility

Hi Alex,

It seems that quicker delivery has been the desire for a long time but perhaps expectations and needs are evolving like some relatives of Moore's Law (doubling every time you turn around). Consumerization and the ease of global competition have rightfully raised the bar. I think some of the recent changes in IT, like virtualization and Cloud xaaS, have helped but we still struggle to keep pace. Perhaps the more mature EA organizations have the processes and organizational relationships in place to better tackle this accelleration (earlier investments may be paying dividends today). Most of the rest of us are maybe more like a politician - we say were for it but don't quite know how to get there yet. :) Looking forward to additional insight at the EA Forum.

What is always unclear to me

What is always unclear to me here is whenever EA is mentioned - what does it actually mean? Does EA in this blog post mean "architecture of the whole enterprise" or merely Enterprise IT Architecture? I presume it is the latter (i.e. when EA is mentioned, it means EITA). If this is so, then the entire frame of discussion changes.

I formally define [Enterprise Architecture (EA) as the ongoing process of building the ability to manage complexity, with the pivotal goal of creating and sustaining coherent enterprises.] I don't use the terms "architecture" and "design" interchangeably (as has been done here). Enterprise Architecture is architecting for flux and the Enterprise Architect is the Chief Complexity Manager.

The primary reason why Enterprise Architects face so many obstacles and questions about EA effectiveness is because current frameworks, methods, techniques, and thinking try to architect for stability something (i.e. the enterprise) that is inherently dynamic and in a state of flux, always. This mismatch is the root cause of the challenges that EAs face.

The idea and the content that is touted here as the "new normal" basically echoes the "six reasons why EA should not be assigned to the IT department" discussion (that went viral). There is nothing new or nothing normal is EA being architecture of the enterprise - that is how it ought to be. So the "new normal" is really a long overdue correction of existing flawed mental models.

"What do you think? Do you see signs of this shift to the New Normal? Or do you see more signs that IT and EA functions are struggling with this shift — perhaps failing to make it?"

It would be nice to see Forrester taking the lead in reorganizing its subject areas such that Information Technology (IT) subject area is placed within Enterprise Architecture (EA) subject category in this blog (not the other way around as it currently is!!!), then that would truly be "walking the talk" ...:-).

The New Normal

Hi, Alex, I would say, yes, you pointed out a few challenges facing in IT & EA:
1. Transform from Implementation only into Innovation plus: it's the competitive necessities to survive at the era of digital and cloud.

2. Focus on "I": information, than "T" technology, either Agile (to make better, faster decision) or Elastic (to scale up cost effectively), information is the power to transform into business wisdom.

3. EA need focus on change or business transformation, not for stabilization, EA approach need be strategic, not academic, and EA is beyond EITA metal model.

Still struggling, but can be done


Great post. IT organizations are still struggling from what I'm seeing in my daily meetings with customers. Most don't even have a formal EA practice, yes even some of the larger enterprises I've been in to see. They make half-baked attempts at true standardization and this ends up as a miserable failure and leaves a bad taste in everyone's mouth. I've been preaching a set of design principles and rules since 2004. It takes a serious buy-in from the executive level to move the needle.

The new EA needs to focus on 4 principles:
1) Modularity to minimize the dependencies between changes
2) Integration to enable the composition of separate modules into useful systems
3) Standardization to facilitate integration, maximizing the reuse and extraction of value.
4) Simplification to minimize what needs to change and the associated costs. This is the primary remedy for dealing with IT complexity, simplification includes the consolidation of applications and infrastructures and the automation and orchestration of processes based on service models.

In today's ever-changing business climate, successful companies are those that will create an infrastructure that adapts and embraces change and uses it as a competitive weapon and by using design rules such as SOA, virtualization, and model-driven architectures it will be successful. This is the goal of the "new EA" in my opinion.

Hasn't EA always been about Agility??

I would disagree with the contention that EA has always been about technology standardization. Zachman and others always proposed multiple types of architectures (data architecture, business architecture, organizational architecture, etc) - with technology being one architectural component of EA. While this vision may have not always been realized, typically due to the near-sightedness of organizations focusing always on what is urgent, instead of an appropriate focus on what is important. Short term costs are seemingly avoided, only to come back with an exponential fury when things need to be changed.

EA has always been about being Agile - if we want to change business direction, do M/A's, respond rapidly to regulatory pressures - we need to know what our architectural environment is currently so we know what needs to change rapidly. We haven't learned the lesson from Y2K of having a solid understanding of our architecture so as to handle change - healthcare companies are now facing a new Y2K - conversion to ICD10 procedure and diagnosis codes (this will actually be much more difficult than Y2K).

To be agile as an enterprise, EA must be developed, expanded, and maintained over time. Our SDLC's must incorporate addition to or maintenance of EA!


Pete Stiglich