We sure do talk a lot about enterprise architecture (EA) maturity. When I think about it, every piece of research we create is in some way intended to help EA leaders mature their practice. But alas, reading alone isn’t what matures an EA practice. Somebody, somewhere (likely, you) has the difficult task of implementing these EA concepts as processes, artifacts, methodologies, etc. And there arises the challenge: Simply building a “new thing” such as a business capability map or a set of reference architectures isn’t where maturity comes from. Rather, it’s about getting these “new things” out there, seeing them used, making sure they’re relevant, and realizing an impact.
For the many EA practices that want to evolve their practices toward a strategy- and business-driven role, actually getting that done means going outside of EA’s current scope. In order to execute on this vision, EA must consider three competencies to see them through their maturity journey, all of which are fraught with boundaries:
Insight. EA professionals need to be able to show that they have an understanding of their firm’s direction and their stakeholder’s strategies for navigating toward it. EA practices therefore need some procedure for gaining this insight — especially since most firms don’t articulate it well. But how can EA — which may historically be tactical and technology driven — get involved?
Influence. EA must now reach out to new stakeholders and use this newfound insight to influence their decisions. The challenge for many EA practices is to avoid blindsiding or overwhelming their stakeholders, as opposed to making their decisions easier. So what is the right way to approach new stakeholders and position your insight?
In our Forrsights Business Decision-Makers Survey, Q4 2011, we asked business technology leaders to rate IT’s ability to establish an architecture that can accommodate changes to business strategy. While 45% of IT rated its ability positively, only 30% of business respondents did. Clearly, both think there is room for improvement, but business is more concerned about it.
So are we agile? Only 21% of enterprise architects in our September 2011 Global State Of Enterprise Architecture Online Survey reported being even modestly agile, so I think we all know the answer.
What do we do about it? Continue to focus on technology standardization and cost reduction? Give up on that and focus on tactical business needs? Gridlock in the middle because we can’t make the business case to invest in agility? This is the struggle EA organizations face today.
To act with agility, firms must create a foundation for it, and three barriers can get in the way:
Brittle processes and legacy systems. We all know it this one; the current state mess of processes that cannot adapt to change and legacy systems where everything is connected to everything else, so even the smallest changes have broad impacts. Techniques to overcome this barrier include partitioning the problem into digestible pieces to show incremental progress and short-term payoff.