A Copernican Shift (And A Tip Of My Hat To Randy Heffner)

As my first calendar year as an analyst draws to a close, I wanted to thank everybody who has read and commented on my blog and say that I look forward to even more next year. In closing out the year, I turn for a moment away from emerging technology to share an email I wrote to one of our clients in response to some questions he had about the changing nature of EA. In describing the future, I'm going to blatantly pirate a term that Randy Heffner has been using for a while because as I sought to answer this client's questions, I realized how absolutely spot on it is. here is the relevant text of that email:


Happy to answer your questions as outlined below in the inquiry request. We have published a report along similar lines, BT 2020: IT's Future In The Empowered Era, that I recommend for additional ideas. Regarding timing, 2015 will be a stepping stone towards 2020, so I’ll focus answers on 2020, and you can extrapolate to 2015 in terms of the migration that needs to occur.

My colleague Randy Heffner has been using the phrase “a Copernican shift” to describe what’s happening to enterprise architecture – similar to when Copernicus’ idea of the Earth actually moving in and around the heavens (instead of vice versa) finally took hold, people’s view of themselves in the universe profoundly and dramatically changed, forever. It wasn’t a swing of the pendulum, in other words. That’s what’s going on in the practice of EA – our view of the world is changing from techno-centric to business-centric. Along the same lines, savvy businesses are shifting their view of EA as a technology thing to EA for business.

How does this idea apply to your specific questions?

a) What will be the scope and focus of enterprise architecture in 2015 and 2020? We have been saying for a while that business and technology have become inseparable. There is no business that can be successful without a technology backbone that keeps it competitive in the information age; the implication is that offloading responsibility for technology selection and delivery to an “IT” department will not work in the future. Further, the rise of the cloud, outsourcing, and “everything-as-a-service” is eroding the notion that big, centralized IT is even necessary. The natural extension of the shift is that EA is becoming a thing that companies do, not a team they have. Furthermore, the focus or central outcome is not technology success; it’s business success. The highest manifestation of this is a firm where business planning and strategy, enterprise architecture, and corporate governance all report up to the same CEO or COO. This has profound implications for the skills and techniques that EAs need for the future.

b) To what extent will system architectures move toward a modular and granular approach, and how are integration layers formed in this approach? It seems that this question may be based in the notion that EA is still about IT systems. Based on a), I think that while this is probably true today, it will not be in 2020. To answer your question from that context, I think that “system architectures” will still be important so long as the system is the entire enterprise (the business) and not just a technology that the business uses. Integration takes on a broader context that includes people integration, process integration, and traditional technology integration. People integration? That’s collaboration, which includes face time as well as technology-enabled collaboration, as an example. Regarding modularity and granularity, the same approaches that made IT systems more agile (modularity, service interfaces, etc.), can make business more agile.

c) On which part(s) of the enterprise stack (business, functionality, infrastructure) lies the strategic focus of the company? The enterprise = the business in the future. Businesses have always and will always focus on a strategy to compete in their markets. The “enterprise stack” must readjust to this fact and focus on helping architect for successful business outcomes and not successful technology deployments.

d) What is the mandate of enterprise architecture by 2015 and 2020 (still in IT or more closely to business changes)? By 2020, the most successful firms will be “architecting their businesses for success,” even if they don’t call this practice enterprise architecture. I’m already seeing firms eschew the term “EA” as being to laden with techno-baggage. Internally, we have been discussing the notion of the practice of EA as being more important than the team called EA. Given this, the mandate for EA will be to help its firm craft the business future state and the road map to get there. These architecture deliverables will include people, process, and technology components, and most importantly, like any good architecture, they will be developed specifically to address the concerns of a set of stakeholders, starting with the business executives who are ultimately accountable for their firm’s future. This is something my colleagues Randy Heffner and Henry Peyret have dubbed business-centered EA. More from us on that soon.


Happy holidays!


Two layers to this Copernican revolution

Hi Brian - nice: I like it a lot.

Seems to me, though, that there are two distinct parts to this 'Copernican revolution'. I agree with just about everything that you've said above, but there's another dimension to this of which we need to be aware.

One side is that the former notion of 'business-IT alignment' is being replaced by a frame in which business and IT are much more intertwined. That's essentially what you've described above, I think? (Or both agreeing with it and also challenging its still-implicit IT-centrism - the sense that this 'new' EA would still mainly be about IT.) For most people in current EA (i.e. still mostly if not solely centred on IT), even that is going to be a pretty serious shift - a major mythquake to shake up their current EA paradigm.

The other side, which you're alluding to here but haven't really described above, is that business itself is undergoing its own 'Copernican revolution': for a wide variety of reasons - political, environmental, technological, sociotechnological, competitive-context, transparency and the 'anti-client' issues, amongst others - business is being forced to shift from being largely self-centric and 'push'-based to customer-centric or extended-enterprise-centric and 'pull'-based. That's already happening now - see Zappos, for example, or Morning Star, or [some bank in California - bother, can't find the name, but Bendigo Bank in Victoria, Australia has similar themes] - but it's likely to accelerate very rapidly indeed in the next few years. And that's every bit as much of a mythquake to business as the shift from IT-centrism is for current 'EA'.

The danger for EA is that its new 'business-centered' approach could end up aligning itself with a business-frame that is just about to hit failure-mode and go out of date. (And that's not even including the business-impacts of the social undercurrents that we see in Occupy Wall Street and the like, which will certainly begin to bite a lot harder in your 2015-2020 timeframe.)

So whilst what you're describing above - a move to a real full-scope rather than IT-centric EA - will need to come to the fore to fully support the business needs, we as EAs will also need to be aware of that even larger 'Copernican revolution' that's impacting business itself.

(Trivial query: in Question (a), "There is no business that can be successful with a technology backbone that keeps it competitive in the information age", would I be correct in guessing that you actually meant 'without a technology backbone' rather than 'with'? To me it would make more sense that way round, anyway.)

Thanks again - very useful, and important to EAs.

Nice points

Yes - business itself is undergoing a revolution! We refer to it as "voice of the customer", a number of analysts on our marketing and strategy client group have been writing a lot about this.

Business/IT alignment - there are many of us that think that term is "old school" and reflects the notion that IT must align itself with business strategy vice business and technology being intertwined. I'm of that opinion, but the business/IT alignment phrase still slips in every once and a while.

Yes - you are correct, I meant to say "with out" will fix it.


More than 'voice of the customer'

There's a critical difference between business-architecture and whole-enterprise architecture - the former has a much smaller scope than the latter, and it's actually the latter scope that we need to address.

Much of the current change in the TOGAF-type space is, in effect, doing a kind of merger between classic IT-architecture and business-architecture. (In TOGAF terms, it's about giving much more prominence to Phase B in the ADM cycle.)

That's important in itself, no question about that. That's going to be a key to breaking the old invalid IT-centrism of the past.

Yet the Copernican Revolution that's happening in the business space is pretty much equivalent. Business-architectures used to be organisation-centric: now, belatedly, they're beginning to realise that 'the organisation' and 'the enterprise' are not the same. The scope of stakeholders that we need to take into account are also much broader than just 'voice of the stockholder' and 'voice of the customer': given the increasing leverage afforded by social-media and the like, non-clients and anti-clients are also able to have a much larger say and much larger impact.

So in the same way that IT needs to look beyond IT in order to understand what's actually needed for the IT, business needs to look beyond business to grasp what's actually needed for business. Within the timescales you're talking about - 5-10 years from now - it's not just technology and the relationship between business and technology that will change: the nature of business itself will change.

As you know, I've researched and written a lot about these current and upcoming changes - on the market-model and market-cycle, the anti-client issue, management-models, 'really-big-picture enterprise-architecture' and so on. I'd be very happy to talk with any of the Forrester crew on this if they wish. Do keep in touch, anyway! :-)

Best etc - tom g.

Excellent discussion. This

Excellent discussion. This fits nicely with and extends the ideas I expressed in my last Open Group blog. It also happens to be the topic of my presentation at the OG's San Francisco conference at the end of January.
I would like to be able to make use of these thoughts (and whatever may develop further) in my presentation. Of course I shall attribute anything I use. I already know Tom won't object but we've never met, Brian, so it seems only polite to ask.
No time today to contribute any other thoughts of my own.

You're welcome

As you say, Stuart, no objection at all. :-)

On the specific point about the change in business-architecture paralleling the change in 'classic' IT-oriented architecture, there's a slide in a presentation of mine that may be useful: slide 3 in http://www.slideshare.net/tetradian/enterprisearchitecture-beyond-it-aer... . Let me know if you'd like a copy of the original PPT which includes the animation, sliding the business-architecture side upward to align with the TOGAF-style view of 'business-architecture'.

Nice to virtually meet you

No problem using the ideas presented, but if you use the Copernican shift thing, please attribute it to us, and specifically Randy. Look forward to seeing how the OG embraces the notion of business architecture. If you want to make direct quotes form us, I need to point you at our PR people who handle such things...please send me an email bhopkins@forrester.com

EA in 2020

in 1990 I worked at DMR (Then a French Canadian consulting firm with 7,000 employees - later acquired by Amdahl and then Fujitsu). In the 1990's EA was seen as a Management Consulting Practice. EA being a management discipline that recognised the pervasive nature of IT throughout business design. Part of that view was that 'EA filled the black hole between business strategy and it's implementation'. Your skill set as an EA was expected to include the stuff Boston, McKinsey and AT Kearney consultants needed. Nice to see Forrester recognise 20 years later that Pierre Ducros, Serge Meilleur and Alain Roy (D M R) were right and forecasting EA's proper role will be fully realised almost 30 years later. An idea whose time has come?


So, your assertion is that in the 90's EA was broadly viewed by all as a management consulting practice? Would anybody else working in EA in the 90's agree or disagree that this was the prevailing attitude? My '90's experience with EA was from a U.S. Defense perspective, so it was more about joint technology standards with Zachmann adding in the idea of of a matrix of views.

I would like to make a distinction here as well. We don't see EA as a thing consultants do...it's a thing companies do to be successful. So I agree that its taken a long time to move from a thing consultants do to a thing IT does to a thing the business does. That's the real evolution.

Also, we don't see this as another swing of the pendulum. What I'm saying is that its a real shift in world view that is permanent. I think Darwinian forces will make it so, because the companies that figure out how to use the principals of architecture to design their business for success will drive the companies that don't out of existence.


Hi Brian

I did try and post and earlier response but it seems to have 'gone missing'. So to recap as well as I can:
1. I DO NOT assert that in 1991 (the year in question) that EA was broadly viewed by ALL as a management consulting practice. I would not even make that assertion in 2011.

I did make the point that a few far-sighted individuals did see it that way. They developed an architecture method (Architecture Plus a.k.a A+) at a time when Spewak and Hill's seminal work was the first guidance in the public domain on 'doing' architecture. It does not seem unreasonable to give credit where credit is due.

2. Your 90's experience is consistent with most - EA as enterprise wide IT architecture, and sadly to many these days that is where it is stuck!

3. I do not see EA as something consultants 'do'. I am surprised you launched that tired old arrow at professional services firms. Consultants often help companies establish an EA practice and introduce the mode of thinking to the broader business community. Organic (home-grown) EA teams appear to struggle to get out of IT and solutions architetcure but I have no analytical evidence to back up that assertion.

I agree with your final point. When training people if architecture I usually get them to make a comparision table between a company that does not 'figre out how to use the principals of architecture' and one that has figured it out.

I generally avoid contributing to blogs because the capacity for misinterpretation between people seems high when messages are short.

History (bunk or crucial?)

Rob and Brian, misunderstandings apart, for the casual observer this is actually a worthwhile exchange.
I get quite worked up by the question of understanding history. I've blogged elsewhere about this at length. What we see again and again when some new development is starting to get serious attention, is two camps developing: the revolutionaries and the "nothing new under the sun" brigade. My point about this is that, regardless which side we're on (preferably neither) we need to understand why we failed to fix the problems in the past in order to ensure that it doesn't all go wrong again. "He who does not understand history....."
I'm not (repeat not) accusing either of you of belonging to either camp but exactly for that reason I think the discussion you're having is worthwhile. For me at least. I don't believe anything is inevitable. I do believe we can change things for the better. I also believe we have a much better chance of succeeding, if we can learn from the past.

By the way, I didn't interpret what Brian said about consultants doing EA as an attack on professional services firms (by the way, I work for one). I understood the emphasis as being on EA as "a thing companies do to be successful" as opposed to something they have done to (or for) them. Consultants can have a role in this - sometimes even a key role. Maybe I'm wrong. I hope not.

History (or Bunk)

Hi Stuart - and Brian
Stuart - I think you summed things up perfectly and Brian deserves full credit for perspicacity and rasing awareness ... and may I credit you with the importance of reminding us that those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat the failures of the past.

You raise a very important issue - which is 'How' we move EA from backroom to boardroom. So far I have included (but not exclusively) adopting rat-cunning - approaching corporate GRC (Governance Risk and Compiance) committees and asking what seems a guileless question 'Do you want to have oversight of the corporate business design?', or using internal audit (a risky approach) to ask if they "want to oversight standards and adherence to strategy".. and corporate strategists with the line about "Can you help us - we are struggling to convert your strategy into a blueprint for implementation" - and have had some success especially with corporate board GRC's making EA reporting a corporate GRC agenda item and strategists who have been frustrated with their plans becoming much-praised shelfware!

A few thoughfully situated pieces of wall-ware - ideally showing the mess (baseline) and the visionary target - can get conversations going. Too many of us (I think) rely on logic and argument which does not seem to work all that well.

I'd love - with Brian's permission, to follow your line about learning from history and expand the discusson to hear what techniques others are using to move EA from Backroom to Boardroom.

BTW - Brian and I resolved the misunderstandings - and I happily accept I pressed my 'oversensitive button'. :)



Love your question to corporate GRC, "Do you want to have oversight of the corporate business design". I'd love to hear from companies that are actually raising EA out of IT. I suspect that a lot of firms are doing it, but I also suspect they are not calling it "Enterprise Architecture".

I'm ambivalent as to whether the name "EA" is hindering or harming the cause. Its about business design,using good architecture practices to draw boxes and arrows about the business future state.

Organic (home-grown) EA teams:

Hi Rob,

Can you expand this comment. "Organic (home-grown) EA teams appear to struggle to get out of IT and solutions architetcure but I have no analytical evidence to back up that assertion."

Organic (home grown)

Hi Suresh

I do both consulting and training and see several hundred aspiring architects each year. When questioned aabout their roles many seem to be tasked with doing EA as a form of applications and technology rationalisation (cleaning up the current mess) coupled with solutions architecture.

They rarely state they are involved in designing the inter-related model of business, organisation, people, process and technology that business must look like to deliver its goals and objectives.

The impression I have is that many corporate EA teams are formed by IT people (CIOs/CTOs) within IT domains and this places them within an organisation structure that separates them from the strategic and corporate planning level of the business.

It is quite possible that my exposure is tainted by the fact that high-perfoming EA teams that are strongly linked to 'blueprinting' the corporate strategy have no need for consulting or training required by those stuck at the lower levels of the EA food chain.

Hence my reluctance to make a sweeping generalisation. Hope this helps. Rob

Hi Rob, Thank you for

Hi Rob,

Thank you for responding.

That's an interesting observation and i am assuming, this applies to any EA kind of roles.
As you mentioned, there is no generfalisation.
I see few benefits: 1) Having Home Grown EA may help, as they already have knowledge of business, organization, People and Technology. So if the EA manager can explain the objective of the role effectively, previous experience may be beneficial to performing the EA Role .
2) At the same time, having a new perspective (hiring newly or consiulting) will help to see it from different direction.

Having EA team with combination of HomeGrown and external may help to achive the objective.

Obvously it also depends on the individual person, as they need to have big picture.

Nope, you are spot on

"It is quite possible that my exposure is tainted by the fact that high-performing EA teams that are strongly linked to 'blueprinting' the corporate strategy have no need for consulting or training required by those stuck at the lower levels of the EA food chain." - agree that they don't need "training on EA", they need help growing and maturing in the business strategy work they are involved in. To date, there is not much formal training on that available. Also, I agree that there are precious few of these EA practices out there actually doing that type of work.

We have defined an EA maturity model that is a 2x2 matrix where the horizontal axies is (left to right) is projects/strategy and top to bottom, technology/business. The upper right quadrant (business strategy) is where we think high performing EA organizations need to be and most want to go. Question is, how do you get there? The Chief Architect, in most cases, can just barge into the CEO staff meeting, seat himself by the CIO and say "hey, your perception of EA is wrong". I'm going to add a link to the research to this blog. If you're not a client and would like a copy, send me an email.

We are having a similar conversation on the Business Architecture linkedIn group, where I posted a link to this blog post. Check it out - http://www.linkedin.com/groups?gid=84758

Excellent discussion. We are

Excellent discussion. We are also having similar discussions and experiencing a big shift from product centric business model to customer centric model. This is mainly due to regulatory requirements and technology disruption. The line between Business and IT are blurring as Business is embarrassing IT as a part of their business model and IT is focusing on delivering business outcome and delivery.

What will happen to the EA practices which also involves technologies e.g. application portfolio rationalisation/ simplifications, Security Architecture (e.g. Advance Persistent Threat) etc.

What will happen to the pure techie stuff

Interesting question - first, I think that application/portfolio rationalization has a lot of business-strategy work involved, so it’s still and EA thing. The conversation shifts from "how do we get this app from Oracle 9 to 11" to "how do we need to change our business processes so that we don't need 13 claims systems” (for example). Same statement about security - a lot of business change involved; for example, the conversation shifts from "we have to figure out how to encrypt all our databases w/ PI" to "How much protection do we really need for systems that are inside our firewall?"

There is an element of pure technical architecture that EAs need to get out of doing....for example, many EA teams are still the keepers of an encyclopedia of detailed technology and application development standards. Many EA teams are struggle to keep that body of knowledge updated while having time to do anything else. IMO, if done correctly, your infrastructure and app dev teams can be incentivized to pick up the task of maintaining that level of standard so EA can focus on principles and strategies.

Finally, I'll give you an interesting data point. In our 2011 State of EA survey, we asked some questions about the % of time teams were spending on Business Architecture, we also asked about how the degree of satisfaction that respondent’s businesses had with the new technology introduction that IT was delivering. We found that firms that were spending >50% of their time on business architecture had a substantially lower level of dissatisfied business customers. Makes you say “hmmmm”.....doing business strategy/architecture work is about technology just like business is about technology today. The work is there, its nature has changed.

Brian I very much like the

I very much like the practical suggestions in your last comment. I think technical architects will be only too pleased to do this. The ones I know will be.
Also the point about having rationalization questions focus on the business processes is really important. We see in Cloud (SaaS) too that the biggest hurdle can sometimes be getting a new process accepted.
By the way, could you send me a copy of the research mentioned in your previous comment. I'm pretty sure my company (KPN) must be a member but pretty much all the marcom folks are on vacation this week, so I can't get account details. Thanks

Outside-in EA

I am discussing a need to develop a framework/methodology for an "Outside-In" EA . Please join me in the conversation at