Where architects are spending their time

Where do architects spend their time, and is this where they should be spending it? I participated in a webinar this week hosted by Architecture & Governance magazine, along with George Paras. We discussed ‘the state of EA in 2010’ and the transformation of EA from a technology focus to a business focus. During this webinar, I showed this data from Forrester’s annual State of EA survey. Blog image

The attendees had several questions followed as to what this data shows.  It’s pretty clear that the segments on the right side of this chart: ‘addressing the near-term needs of application delivery projects’, ‘addressing near-term needs of infrastructure and data center teams’ and ‘running or participating in EA governance processes, such as project review’ – are the typical mainstream activities of architects.  In fact, it’s somewhat surprising that this seems to be only about 50% of architects’ time.

The activities on the left side of this chart could be viewed as signs that EA is becoming more strategically- and business-focused – and so providing more value and having a greater impact within their firms.  But there is ambiguity about some of the response categories.  Collaborating with the business is good – but as part of an application project team or to develop a business-technology strategy?  EA teams should be developing strategic future application or technology plans – but are these oriented towards narrow technology standards, or are they targeted towards CIO-level and business strategy?  It’s good that 11% of EA’s time is supporting enterprise planning and budgeting processes – but then other surveys suggest that architects are often not involve with PPM processes before project approval gate.

EA teams’ key assets are their knowledge and their time.  So, although the data is ambiguous, the questions are important.  While Forrester won’t tell architect teams how to allocate their time – we do say they need to reserve significant time for working with business strategy and joint-business and IT planning.  And they should treat this as their most ‘high value’ time.  Where are you spending your time?  What’s driving this allocation?  Do you think architects are effectively balancing tactical and strategic focus?

Comments

re: Where architects are spending their time

Its a good trend to see. In fact I have been thinking recently about the possibility an MBA level curriculum for business leaders teaching the techniques of architecture and how to apply them to organizations as a whole. Really bringing EA to the business, stripped of technology, for the purpose of enabling businesses to create a strategic roadmap to get to their desired future state.

The concepts of IEEE 1471 can be applied to any complex system, not just enterprise software. When that system is an enterprise, you have Enterprise Architecture. Given this definition, EA has little to do with technology, even though it 'grew up' there.

re: Where architects are spending their time

Happy to see this survey result reflects moreover our experiences in introducing EA and helping enterprise architects. We often discuss both sides with our customers' EA teams, mainly due to their background in either business or IT. I think it is a key success factor for EA to combine both views. To integrate stakeholders from tactical and strategical level provides the highest benefit for EA and the enterprise. To elevate the EA teams' knowledge and time the industry seems to be on a good way, yet maybe we can reduce the 9% for other efforts like methodology discussions and data gathering with a simple but optimal approach for EA, at best combined with an OpenSource tool, like iteraplan.

re: Where architects are spending their time

From my perspective, the pie chart shows why the field of EA is finding it difficult to justify its existence. None of the activities mentioned justify an EA practice. All of these activities could be better done by somebody other than an EA. If we want to show why we need EA, we should start out by showing the unique value than only an EA practice can provide. This pie chart fails to do this.

To give an obvious example of the problem with the pie chart, according to the pie chart most EAs spend the largest slice of their pie on addressing near-term needs of application delivery projects. It is very difficult to imagine what an EA can possibly contribution to the near-term needs of an application project. If an EA is involved in this, the EA is an applications architect, not an Enterprise Architect.

I have consistently argued that the major value an EA can bring to an organization is in complexity reduction. Complexity is a huge cost to most organizations and it can only be effectively addressed at the juncture between IT and the business. And complexity management, the single most important area of focus for EA, isn't even on the pie chart!

For more on my views on the relationship between EA and complexity, see my white paper The IT Complexity Crisis at http://bit.ly/3O3GMp.

re: Where architects are spending their time

I think a lot of this depends on what kind of architect you are, enterprise architects will should probably spend more time on strategic tasks, whereas the solution architect should probably be spending more time on project-specific tasks. There is obvious overlap and co-ordination, but I think it would be helpful to break down the tasks by architecture type.