Five Predictions For EA Practices In 2013

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:

  1. 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 . . .
  2. The boss and the boss’s boss will “get” the value of EA. The data suggests that the broader concept of EA as a strategic and business-focused discipline is settling in. Over the past four years, it has become less and less likely that EA is expected to focus on what’s “in the weeds,” and have more involvement at a higher level. Complementing this data is an increasing amount of anecdotal evidence — I’m seeing more VP and C-level roles saying that they need to formalize EA for what we might think of as the right reasons, whereas only a few years ago, they’d be more likely to be clueless and uninvolved. And that’s some good timing, because . . .
  3. Business and information architecture will make significant progress. We’ve seen a lot of interest, but little urgency, in developing and formalizing these architecture disciplines. For the past four years of survey data, both of these disciplines remained the least mature in EA’s suite. But this year, both tied for first as EA’s top priority. Mix that with prediction No. 1 and prediction No. 2, and it looks like EA may have some wiggle room as it tries to prove that these ambiguous domains of architecture are worth it. Though this could be both a blessing and a curse, because . . .
  4. Finding or developing the right person for the job will be the bottleneck. Put it all together: The bigwigs want the broad spectrum of EA value (ASAP, please), which includes the least mature discipline, and someone, somewhere, must be able to pull it off . . . while showing value and without any relevant metrics. Whether EA is just kicking off or is now growing into this role, many practice leaders will find themselves playing the role of HR, and many will find themselves playing it unsuccessfully. Especially in regards to business and information architecture, the right mix of skills is rare and can be expensive. Finding, developing, and designing enterprise architecture skillsets will become the most popular “soft” topic, taking the place of “marketing EA to executives.” This has greater implications as well, because . . .
  5. EA leaders are going to rethink their org and operating models. If they haven’t already, that is. Many EA practices are in a bit of a midlife crisis as they try to apply all of the architecture lenses to enterprise planning and delivery. Combine that with the dearth of appropriate skills, higher expectations for EA’s value, the demand for business/information architecture, and the likelihood that EA’s headcount will remain low . . . and something’s gotta give. EA practices will formalize how they align their architects to stakeholder groups, will rewrite the scope of the architects’ responsibilities, and will draw clearer boundaries around when, how, and who gets involved.

More of the data and deeper discussion of trends will be available in February 2013’s “State of EA: 2013” report. But for the time being, you tell me: Have I jumped the gun with these predictions? Do execs both “get” and value EA, or do they still not care? Can you truly operate without a standard set of metrics? And are the skills for the job more readily available than I think?


I agree for the most part,

I agree for the most part, Tim. However, in point 2, I'm not so sure this is happening much. Yes, the boss and the boss's boss are gaining an incremental understanding of EA value, but for many organizations, the EA value proposition is still ambiguous. As long as the value proposition isn't clearly stated and agreed to, EA will remain in the "wait and see" state for organizational executives.

At the IASA World Summit in December, I made the assertion that most often EA practices fail because they become irrelevant. Without a planned effort to clarify in business terms the value that EA provides, most practices remain on the cusp of irrelevance. I believe this means that the boss and the boss's boss must "get" EA, and demand its value. EA practioners must also communicate what EA is not, and emphasize the need to remain focued on value-producing activities.

Hi Dave - thanks for the

Hi Dave - thanks for the comment. I especially like that last sentence about clarifying what EA is NOT.

One of the intricacies of EA value is that, like architecture itself, it has many layers to it. I think execs are getting what I'd refer to as the "top layers" of EA value - what you get when you combine the many EA disciplines and activities into the holistic outcome they expect. What they don't see is exactly that - there are a lot of moving parts - each with their own unique value - that aggregate to create that. I predict (and hope) that this year, they'll get some more insight into how that value is actually produced.


As I look at the predictions holistically, my interpretation is that "EA" will be different things to different companies - bridge between Business & IT Strategy, Thought Leader, Guardian of the Vision - thus we will start to see more flexible, dynamic ways to resource and fulfill EA. As a corollary of this, we will start to see increasing importance given to the EA repository as a means of corporate memory for EA.

I like the list and

I like the list and especially love the prediction on”boss and the boss’s boss will “get” the value of EA” Having the value of EA’s recognized is important for several reasons:
• Boss can justify keeping you employed during tough times (justification driven by quantifiable metrics can be especially useful)
• “Business” stakeholders will find it easier to offer you a seat at the table
• Being recognized by boss’s boss and peers is certainly a good egoboo for individual EA’s

Don't underestimate CEOs

I've lived on both sides of the fence between academia and business for most of my career, earlier consulting and auditing both--usually to boards.

What may surprise folks in EA is that with Kyield what I'm finding is actually that the more senior people get it, including some of the aspects of EA-- they have more experience and have dealt with the concepts for longer, and in some cases have had ongoing high level coaching and consulting that others in their org have not had access to.

While many empty suits still exist and there are many political animals in large orgs, there are also some very sharp, experienced CEOs and boards, including those with very advanced understanding of technology, org management, and the confluence of both-- I've in fact dealt with a few that are among the most intelligent people I've known, including the most advanced scientists. In the former little choice may exist but to move on-- in the latter it could well be that senior people are considering long-term strategy that includes new systems and how to incorporate that into the pre-existing EA.

This is the case in several situations I am aware of. EAs are sometimes too quick to dismiss technology and not consider all of the options. A strong CEO doesn't have that luxury. Worth consideration. - MM

Forrester does good work

Some thoughts:
Six years ago, when people asked me what I did for a living, I'd scratch my head and go "there is not really a job title.."
"Functional/strategic/Technical oversight and audit"
"Safety net"
"Reducing inefficiency"
"Making sure we do the right things, properly, and no more"
...and so forth.

Now, despite wildly differing definitions of what an architect is and does (as per your measurements point) there is a broad jobtitle.

Regarding the "CxO's 'get it'" point:
Every single effective engagement in this space i have ever had has included open and direct lines of communication between me and the CxO team.
Every single ineffective one has been the result of hierarchies and non-flat structures.
One may find teams of SA's, working on various portfolios, but IMHO, there is no collective noun for EA's (except perhaps a "confusion" or "muddle")
Anything less than one or more than 3 is a bad place for a company to be in, no matter what its size.

Last point, about "weeds"
Much debate about this in various forums, but i tend to find that the people arguing against "weeds" are the ones who are incapable of going there.
As an analogy: I can paint a wall, lay bricks, do electrical wire work, and so forth.
But when i need this done, i hire someone, as it is cost-ineffective for me to do it myself.
I still have the capability to inspect their work and pronounce it good or bad, however.
EA's shouldn't have to get down in the weeds and mud, but they need the ability to do so in emergency.