Is The Current EA Paradigm Right For Business Architecture?

In preparation for our next EA Forum, I have been doing a lot of reflecting lately about the state of EA and what it means as we move forward into business architecture. And frankly, I don’t like what I am seeing – or more accurately, I don’t like what I am thinking. It seems to me that we are stuck in an outdated – and I will go out on a limb here and say not very successful – paradigm. So what is a paradigm? In this case I am referring to our thinking paradigm – the model in our brains that structures the way we think about EA. Our paradigms represent the “box,” as in thinking inside the box. When we are thinking outside the box, we are essentially trying to create a new paradigm – or thinking model. Paradigms are very powerful. That is why it is so difficult to think out of the box for any extended period of time. Here are the six elements that I see very consistently in the thought patterns of EAs:

Governance – Mechanisms to approve EA designs and enforce adherence to the reference architecture at the project level.

Principles – Decision filters that both EA development and application decisions flow through.

Current state – A snapshot of current issues and technology baseline (often in significant detail).

Reference architecture – The body of work describing EA’s intent, organized in a framework, expressed in strategy, standards, patterns, guidelines, etc.

Target state – An idealized future state viewpoint describing how the organization desires to change the current state based on the current understanding of technology and architecture.

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Organizations Are Not Ready For Sustainable BPM Change

Last month I launched an online self-assessment and survey tool to help you — business process change agents and architects — determine the sustainability of your business process management (BPM) change effort. The source of inspiration for the assessment criteria I used is the conclusion of the Harvard Business School's Evergreen Project.

Evergreen analyzed the impact of 200 different management "best practices" on the performance of 160 business organizations over a time period of 10 years. The researchers studied broad areas such as strategy, innovation, and business processes, as well as specific practices, and concluded that organizations that truly produce superior results excel at four fundamental practices:

  1. Devise and maintain a clearly stated, focused strategy.
  2. Develop and maintain flawless operational execution.
  3. Develop and maintain a performance-oriented culture.
  4. Build and maintain a fast, flexible, flat organizational structure.
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Forrester EA Forum Keynotes Map EA’s Shift From IT To Business

When I started as an architect, I was part of the team called “IT Architecture.” It was clear what we did and who we did it for – we standardized technology and designs so that IT would be more reliable, deliver business solutions more quickly, and cost less. We were an IT-centric function. Then the term “Enterprise Architecture” came in – and spurred debates as to “isn’t EA about the business?,” “what’s the right scope for EA?,” and “should EA report to the CEO?” We debated it, published books and blogs about it – but it didn’t change what most architects did; they did some flavor of IT Architecture.

Meanwhile, the interplay of business and technology changed . . . Technology became embedded and central to business results, and business leaders became technology advocates. The locus of technology innovation moved from the “heavy lifting” of core system implementations to the edges of the business, where business staff see opportunities and demand more autonomy to seize them. For enterprise architects, this means that regardless of what EA has been, in the future it must become a business-focused and embedded discipline. Mapping this shift is a key theme of Forrester’s Enterprise Architecture Forum 2011

Gene Leganza, who will be presenting the opening keynote “EA In The Year 2020: Strategic Nexus Or Oblivion?,” states it this way:

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