What is the key to effective enterprise architecture? In a word: influence. I rarely see an EA team that can’t build a reasonably good architecture, but I also rarely see an EA team that can successfully drive support for even the best of architectures. The most elegant architectures are worthless unless they are widely adopted and utilized. We don’t need more elegant architecture models; we need more eloquent architects.
Over the past few years I have asked hundreds of architects two simple questions. First: “What is more difficult - building architecture or implementing architecture?” Every single architect without exception tells me architecture is much harder to implement than to build. My second question is more telling: “Where do you spend the majority of your time?” Their answer: “Building architecture and my architectural skills.” Even though EAs clearly understand the problem, they don’t address it. Why is that? I think it is because deep down inside, they don’t want to.
Building organizational influence is long and difficult work. It requires an entirely different skill set than architecting. The focus is on people and relationships rather than technologies and concepts. Most architects don’t feel comfortable here. Instead of acknowledging reality and dealing with it, often architects try to avoid it by putting the problem on someone else’s back. “EA can’t succeed without executive sponsorship.” “Someone needs to give us more authority and control.” The fact is, very, very few EA teams actually get anything close to this. The majority don’t even get significant support from their CIO. And yet, somehow, many succeed. How? By building personal and organizational influence. The bottom line to EA success is organizational impact. How much are you having?
When digging into the data from September 2009 Global State Of Enterprise Architecture Online Survey, I found an interesting correlation in the data: Survey respondents who reported a high degree of business and IT process standardization also reported that EA was more effective and more influential within the organization. As the level of standardization decreased, so did EA effectiveness and influence. Just take a look at this sample data from a report that recently went live on our website:
Why does this correlation exist? We’ve been saying (and most clients have been agreeing) that process standardization is a keystone to effectiveness across all areas of IT: apps, infrastructure, PMOs, you name it. When I look at IT organizations in my research, those that focus on standardizing processes or that live in an environment of highly standardized business processes tend to be doing a better job.
But simply being more standardized can’t be the “secret sauce” for EA success. There must be something that standardization does to an organization — a window or door that it creates — that enables IT functions such as EA to get better at what they do. Based on deeper analysis of our data, this is my hypothesis: