We get a lot of calls from EA leaders that find themselves stuck between a rock and a hard place: They need a tool to help them through a specific initiative such as application rationalization or transformation management, but don’t have the time, maturity, approach, and financial justification for the EA management suite (EAMS) that would get the job done. As I mention in my recent report, "Select A Right-Fit Toolset For EA," this uncertainty and urgency has fueled the proliferation of new vendors addressing specific challenges. What I did not mention is that these new choices don’t just signal more competition in the usual market - they actually signal a new market entirely. One that is probably bigger than many might first think.
I’m referring to the mid-market. Not just in the obvious sense of smaller, less mature EA practices, but also including the myriad situations where the initiative is being carried out by a role that has no idea that they’re acting as an “EA,” or by consultants hired to get the job done and get out. There’s a big market out there of temporary EA “initiatives” (as opposed to permanent EA groups or practices) and consultants that would leverage a tool if it were cheap enough, easy enough, and straight-forward enough for these short-term use cases.
Earlier this year, I published a blog and report outlining five predictions for EA practices in 2013 based on trends I analyzed in Forrester's annual state of EA survey. This year's state of EA survey is now accepting responses for 2014, for those who would like to participate. But I have a feeling this year's data will be less optimistic than last year's.
The data for 2013 showed an EA practice roaring to help their business set their business technology strategy, become more agile, and achieve their transformations successfully. And anecdotally, this is where our EA clients felt they were ready to go. Furthermore, their bosses were giving them full support, and the business was willing to give it a try. It all sounded perfect, and I was optimistic.
But I'm starting to see a disturbing trend in my calls and engagements. Yes -- EA went out there, did the job, engaged the business, got a project, drew some pictures, maybe made a proposal for enterprise investment. But many will not be coming back a second time to welcoming arms. And here's why:
For the past few years of our enterprise architecture management suite (EAMS) coverage, we’ve noticed a trend that many of our clients are seeing in their own organizations: As the scope of the practice of EA expands, the range of what they need for tooling expands – and there is no one tool that accomplishes the full span of these needs. Though many vendors fly the flag of the full and broad EAMS, the reality is that they’re all bringing a different perspective to the mission and content of EA. I demonstrated this in The Forrester Wave™: EA Management Suites, Q2 2013, where I looked at four different EA value propositions, and found different firms were leaders in these different value propositions.
The news from this morning that Software AG acquired alfabet AG is an indicator that maybe this is about to change. The merger of Software AG’s business-process-centric view with alfabet’s strengths in IT planning and portfolio management mends one of the biggest divides in the market today between business process and enterprise architecture roles. There’s still plenty to learn about this acquisition, but I have a few initial reactions that are quite positive for the now united companies:
1. If properly brought together, the new offering could be the power-player. Both are leaders in the EAMS market from a tool functionality perspective, giving fantastic depth and breadth to the future offering.
In an effort get ahead of the curve, I’ve been looking at the strategic advice that Forrester’s Marketing and Strategy (M&S) analysts are giving to their clients in marketing roles. This is in the hopes that we can help EA practices better communicate, plan, and align to what their marketing leaders are thinking – but aren’t necessarily communicating.
What I’m finding is that your marketing team is strategizing for an odd future: An era of precognition, driven by an undeniable and powerful consumer trend: The emerging base of consumers value relevancy over privacy. They’re willing to trade privacy for new services – and their inventory of sellable secrets grows while their avenues for selling them become wider. If you’ve guessed this has something to do with mobility, you’re right. What I’m finding our M&S analysts recommending is not only interesting (and in some ways terrifying), but could have an overwhelmingly positive impact on an EA practice’s value to the organization, bringing it closer to tangible revenue contribution. But only EA practices ready to accept this new mission will see this benefit.
Translating the guidance from Forrester’s M&S analysts, there are five things that EA leaders must think about if they are to enable this future:
In a recent blog post, I mentioned that hiring and developing the right people for EA’s strategic aspirations will be a bottleneck, and as a result, development and certification programs will become a popular topic of conversation. Well it didn’t take long for some client inquiries to come in and show me that while I may be on the right track with that prediction, there's more to the topic than one might think. From the looks of it, the challenge runs deep: Development is about more than skill sets and certifications - it’s also about real career path - and elevating the job to the level of "profession" akin to those that architect our buildings. To get some more information, I called Dr. Brian Cameron, Founding President of The Federation for Enterprise Architecture Professional Organizations (FEAPO) and Program Director of Penn State’s Master of Professional Studies in Enterprise Architecture. Here’s what he had to say:
Q:Our clients are interested in developing their teams as opposed to hiring, due to challenges with funding and attracting talent. What are members of the EA community doing about this? Is it more common than not?
For the last four years, Forrester has run a longitudinal study on the “state of EA” — tracking the changes in focus, priorities, etc., since 2008. Our clients use it to get a sense of whether their progress and plans for EA is on par with their peers.
Based on the year-over-year comparison of the data in the upcoming “State of EA: 2013” document, as well as some anecdotal evidence I’m seeing in client interactions, I’ve got five predictions about what I expect to see happen with EA practices this year:
They’re going to kill off the usual EA metrics. They’ll do it even though technically they’re not supposed to (and they may not realize they’re even doing it). Our data shows that standard EA metrics (maturity, perception, value, etc.) are less and less likely to actually be used, even though they’re an extremely popular topic of conversation. A recent experience of mine confirmed that even when trapped in a room for a few hours, not even industry peers can agree on a set of common metrics. Powerful metrics are too company- and initiative-specific to standardize. And in the end, the usual metrics might become irrelevant because . . .
I receive a lot of inquiries from clients about an EA maturity/assessment model. It’s proven to be a common and excellent way to track EA’s progress and influence plans — so common that we dedicated an entire report to it in our EA Practice Playbook, and we have an upcoming webinar for enterprise architects who want to build/customize their own model. The usual backstory is that an EA leader wants (or has been asked) to create a model from scratch or customize an external model to fit the organization. It’s usually about a 50/50 split between those options.
And what starts as a simple over-the-weekend project quickly becomes a frustrating struggle. The criteria pile up quickly — after all, EA does a lot of things. The granularity is inconsistent — one can measure a piece of a process or the larger process it belongs to. The scoring scale causes frustration — it can score many aspects of your criteria — and is either vague or specific. And when compared to other models, it inevitably looks vastly different from each one. It isn’t long before other day-to-day priorities put the effort on the back burner.
As one who has gone through the exercise a few times, I’ve got five tips that can help you move along faster and complete your model before other priorities swallow it up:
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?
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:
Last week, Forrester’s CIO Group held its North American Fall Member Meeting in Chicago. In addition to enjoying some Chicago-style deep dish pizza and dinner at the Art Institute of Chicago, approximately 70 members gathered from across the globe to discuss top-of-mind issues. Sessions included presentations from Forrester analysts, case studies presented by members, and a workshop on IT strategic planning.