The Enterprise Architect’s Growing Pains

Today, we present a sponsored podcast discussion in conjunction with the Open Group Conference, held in San Diego. We’ve assembled a panel to examine the current state of enterprise architecture (EA) and analyze some new findings on this subject from a recently completed Infosys annual survey.

We’ll see how the architects themselves are defining the EA team concept, how enterprise architects are dealing with impact and engagement in their enterprises, and the latest definitions of EA deliverables and objectives.

We’ll also look at where the latest trends around hot topics like cloud and mobile are pushing the enterprise architects toward a new future. Here with us to delve into the current state of EA and the survey results is Len Fehskens, VP of skills and capabilities at The Open Group; Nick Hill, principal enterprise architect at Infosys Technologies; Dave Hornford, architecture practice principal at Integritas, as well as chair of The Open Group’s Architecture Forum; Chris Forde, VP of enterprise architecture and membership capabilities for The Open Group; Andrew Guitarte, enterprise business architect of Internet services at Wells Fargo Bank; and Ahmed Fattah, executive IT architect in the financial services sector for IBM, Australia.

Listen to the podcast (40:32 minutes).

Here are some excerpts:

Dana Gardner: Nick Hill, let’s go to you first. You’ve conducted an annual survey. You just put together your latest results. You asked enterprise architects what’s going on in the business. What are the takeaways? What jumped out at you this year?

Nick Hill: There are several major takeaways. There were some things that were different about this year’s survey. One, we introduced the notion of hot topics. So, we had some questions around cloud computing. And we took a more forward-looking view in terms of not so much what has been transpiring with enterprise architectures since the last survey, but what are they looking to go forward to in terms of their endeavors. And as we have been going through economic turmoil over the past two or three years, we asked some questions about that.

We did notice that in terms of the team makeup, a lot of the sort of the constituents of the EA group are pretty much still the same, hailing from largely the IT core enterprise group. We looked at the engagement and impacts that they have had on their organizations and as well, whether they have been able to establish the value that we’ve noticed that enterprise architects have been trying to accomplish over the past three to four years.

This was our fifth annual survey, which was started by Sohel Aziz. We did try to do some comparative results from previous surveys and we found that some of things were the same, but there are some things that are shifting in terms of EA.

More and more, the business is taking hold of the value that enterprise architects bring to the table, enterprise architects have been able to survive the economic troubled times, and some companies have even increased their investment in EA. But there was a wide range of topics, and I’m sure that we’ll get to more of those as this discussion goes on.

Gardner: One of the things that you looked at was the EA team. Are we defining who these people are differently? Has that been shifting over the past few years?

Hill: Essentially, no. If you took a look at this year’s survey compared to 2007-2008 surveys, largely they’ve come from core IT with some increase from the business side, business architects and some increase in project managers. The leader of the EA group is still reporting through the IT chain either to the CIO or the CTO. …

Gardner: Chris Forde, you’ve been observing a lot of these issues, is this a particularly dynamic time, or is this a time where things are settling out? Is there any way to characterize the way in which the enterprise architect occupation or professional definition is involved with the organization? Where are we on this?

Chris Forde: Actually, I’ll defer commentary on the professional aspect of things to my colleague Len. In terms of the dynamics of EA, we’re constantly trying to justify why enterprise architects should exist in any organization. That’s actually no different than most other positions are being reviewed on an ongoing basis, because of what the value proposition is for the organization.

What I’m seeing in Asia is that a number of academic organizations, universities, are looking for an opportunity to certify enterprise architects, and a number of organizations are initiating, still through the IT organization but at a very high CIO-, CTO-level, the value proposition of an architected approach to business problems.

What I’m seeing in Asia is an increasing recognition of the need for EA, but also a continuing question of, “If we’re going to do this, what’s the value proposition?” which I think is just a reasonable conversation to have on a day-to-day basis anyway.

Gardner: So, Chris is pointing to the fact that business transformation is an undercurrent to all these things in many different occupations, and processes and categories of workforce and even workflow are being reevaluated. Len, how is the EA job or function playing into that? Is this now an opportunity for it to start to become more of a business transformation occupation?

Len Fehskens: When you compare EA with all the other disciplines that make up a modern enterprise, it’s the new kid on the block. EA, as a discipline, is maybe 20 years old, depending on what you count as the formative event, whereas most of the other disciplines that are part of the modern enterprise at least hundreds of years old.

So, this is both a real challenge and a real opportunity. The other functions have a pretty good understanding of what their business case is They’ve been around for a long time, and the case that they can make is pretty familiar. Mostly they just have to argue in terms of more efficient or more effective delivery of their results.

For EA, the value proposition pretty much has to be reconstructed from whole cloth, because it didn’t really exist, and the value of the function is still not that well understood throughout most of the business.

So this is an opportunity as well as a challenge, because it forces the maturing of the discipline, unlike some of these older disciplines who had decades to figure out what it was that we’re really doing. We have maybe a few years to figure out what it is we’re really doing and what we’re really contributing, and that helps a lot to accelerate the maturing of the discipline.

I don’t think we’re there completely yet, but I think EA, when it’s well done, people do see the value. When it’s not well done, it falls by the side of the road, which is to be expected. There’s going to be a lot of that, because of the relative use of the discipline, but we’ll get to the point where these other functions have and probably a lot faster than they did. …

Gardner: Andrew at Wells Fargo Bank, you wear a number of hats outside of your organization that I think cross some of these boundaries. The idea of the enterprise architect or a business architect, where do you see this development of the occupation going, the category going, and what about this division between strategy and execution?

Andrew Guitarte: I may not speak for the bank itself, but from my experience of talking with people from the grassroots to the executive level, I have seen one very common observation: enterprise architects are caught off-guard, and the reason there is that there is this new paradigm. In fact, there is a shift in paradigm that business architecture is the new EA, and I am going out beyond my peers here in terms of predicting the future.

That is going to be the future. I am the founding chairman of the Business Architecture Society. Today, I am an advisory member of the Business Architecture Guild. We’re writing, or even rewriting, the textbooks on EA. We’re creating a handbook for business architects. What my peers have mentioned is that they are bridging the strategy and tactical demands and are producing the value that business has been asking for.

Gardner: OK, we also see from the survey that process flexibility, and standardization seems to be a big topic. Again, they’re looking to the architects in the organization to try to bridge that, to move above and beyond IT and applications into process, standardization, and automation across the organization.

Ahmed, where do you see that going, and how do you think the architect can play a role in furthering this goal of process flexibility and standardization?

Ahmed Fattah: The way I see the market is consistent with the results of the survey in that they see the emergence of the enterprise architect as business architect to work on a much wider space and make you focus more on the business. There are a number of catalysts for that. One of them is a business process, the rise of the business process management, as a very important discipline within the organization.

That, in a way, had some roots from Six Sigma, which was really a purely business aspect, but also from service oriented architecture (SOA), which has itself now developed into business process, decomposition and implementation.

That gives very good ammunition and support for the strategic decomposition of the whole enterprise as components that, with business process, is actually connecting elements between this. The business process architect is participating as a business architect using this business process as a major aspect for enabling business transformation.

I’m very encouraged with this development of business architecture. By the way, another catalyst now is a cloud. The cloud will actually purify or modify EA, because all the technical details maybe actually outsourced to the cloud provider, where the essence of what IT will support in the organization becomes the business process.

On one hand, I’m encouraged with the result of the survey and what I’ve seen in the organization, but on the other hand, I am disappointed that EA hasn’t developed these economic and business bases yet. I agree with Len that 20 years is a short time. On the other hand, it’s a long time for not applying this discipline in a consistent way. We’ll get much more penetration, especially with large organization, commercial organization, and not the academic side.

Gardner: So, if we look at that potential drop between the strategy and the execution, someone dropping the ball in that transition, what Ahmed is saying that cloud computing could come in whereby your strategy could be defined, your processes could be engineered, and then the tactical implementation of those could be handed off to the cloud providers. Is that a possible scenario from where you sit, Dave?

Dave Hornford: I think it’s a possible scenario. I think more driving from it is the ability to highlight the process or business service requirements and not tie them to legacy investments that are not decomposed into a cloud. Where you have a separation to a cloud, you’re required to have the ability to improve your execution. The barriers in execution in our current world are very closely tied to our legacy investments in software asset with physical asset which are very closely tied to our organizational structure.

Dana Gardner

Dana Gardner is president and principal analyst at Interarbor Solutions, which tracks trends, delivers forecasts and interprets the competitive landscape of enterprise applications and software infrastructure markets for clients. He also produces BriefingsDirect sponsored podcasts. Follow Dana Gardner on Twitter. Disclosure: The Open Group sponsored this podcast.

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