Questions From The Next-Gen EA Teleconference On October 23, 2009
Jeff Scott and I presented a teleconference entitled “Next-Generation Enterprise Architecture” last week. It was a lively session with a lot of material on our side and a lot of questions from attendees. We focused on the questions over the phone in the live session and decided it was best to handle the written questions that came in via the Webex chat in a blog post.
Recently I took a look at an EA-maturity-model-cum-roadmap from Leo de Sousa, Manager of Business Application Services and Enterprise Architecture at the British Columbia Institute of Technology (click to read Leo’s blog on EA CMM). To my surprise, I liked it. Why was I surprised?
I have never liked EA maturity models. Yes, tracking progress is important. And yes, there should be a consensus about what characterizes a mature EA practice. But I don’t like how they would ostensibly be used to compare one enterprise with another, a la benchmarks. Perhaps I was soured on them by seeing them used as a governance technique in US federal agencies.
The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) required agencies to assess themselves against a standardized maturity model, with progressive hurdles in successive years. Federal agencies, accustomed as they are to all sorts of oversight and compliance mandates, know how to pass compliance audits. Did you ever wonder how (then) Popkin System Architect got so popular in the federal government? An EA tool was required to demonstrate a certain level of EA maturity and System Architect was the lowest-cost offering at the time (I’m sure there are other reasons as well). Behavior was around letter-of-the-law compliance, and it seldom catalyzed getting with the spirit. Even when Dick Burk at OMB introduced a clever workaround in a second version of the model — you could leapfrog to a level 4 if you showed actual business benefits, regardless of what other checklist items you missed — agencies simply marched through the maturity level checklists getting the requisite items done. The scores were good, but in my opinion they overstated the degree to which EA was ingrained in the culture of the agencies.
An early 2009 Forrester interview with the CIO of a retail firm produced a great quote: “Our business execs have two views of IT: a big budget blob or their BlackBerry.” Now, maybe those retail business execs think of IT as a strategic budget blob, but it’s more likely that’s a shop with alignment issues. If that CIO’s business execs don’t see technology as enabling anything more than mobile email, then they really don’t get the power of technology and they’re not going to see the value in the IT department.
But alignment issues are not limited to shops where business execs don’t see value in technology. The whole IT-to-BT transition is about how the business is enthusiastically embracing technology – they’re just not bothering to go through the IT department to find it, deploy it, or use it. Today’s alignment problem is more about the gap between the business’s valuation of technology’s potential and their valuation of the IT department’s ability to deliver on that potential.
CIOs’ business-IT alignment efforts and enterprise architects’ attempts to focus their architecture on business needs have one thing in common: they assume that good planning information is available from “the business side.” The problem is, the business folks don’t tend to plan too far ahead. And, when they can tell us about their goals and objectives, they don’t usually describe them in sufficient detail to allow us to cook up specific IT initiatives to move them forward.