Message of the Month: EA is Dead; Long Live EA!

Having worked in the field of Enterprise Architecture for over twenty years, there is no mistaking the fact that EA has reached a tipping point. Stakeholder expectations have evolved to insist on actionable EA that recognizes the value that EA can bring for more integration across different segments/disciplines of the enterprise. Stakeholders increasingly acknowledge the value of the consistency and transparency that could be offered by EA’s introduction of leading practices, standards, and tools for transformation.

However, their patience is limited; they want to see the initial and ongoing delivery of value early in the rollout of an EA practice and then continuously. EA value is no longer measured in terms of the weight and comprehensiveness of EA documents and visuals. Its value — and continued viability as a management discipline — instead depends on EA recognizing the following:  The clarity, coherency, and cohesiveness that EA promises must be done with minimum core resources and delivered in such a way as to accelerate successful collaborative transformations.

In a recent consulting engagement to help an organization mature its longstanding EA practice, EA Principals was given access to “legacy” EA documents done about 10 years prior, items such a charter for the EA practice. The documents were overall impressive in content and presentation. However, they were never operationalized; they had just been done to check the box that EA was formalized in the organization. This has been the case in far too many instances of EA programs established in the heyday of traditional EA (circa 2002-2012), with the result being a lack of appreciation of the value that EA can deliver.

As a result of EA being seen as too much of a checkbox exercise and one that would almost inevitably slow down the delivery of business results, many CXOs lost confidence in EA over the past approximately 10 years. Even in U.S. government agencies that have been mandated to do EA, many agencies did just the formalities or even nothing at all and were not even called out for their decisions in this regard.

That noted, there is a New EA emerging that is more fundamentally about delivering value with declared and measurable EA services provided by very streamlined EA teams. The services are often focused on seeking out and introducing leading practices and standards that will facilitate and even accelerate transparent, systematic, and more flexible/agile architectures.

In short, EA is on the front lines now in terms of helping to design value streams, thereby also providing inventories of needed capabilities to provide the targeted and measurable values. EA methods and modeling are evolving rapidly that recognize the need for more enterprise-wide ownership and participation in the identification and contributions to value realization. For example, EA-related tools that were previously used only by a small subset of a relatively large EA team, are now being designed and rolled out much more widely, even to the tune of thousands of licenses within a single organization.

In short, there is increasing a vision shared in many large organizations of all types that EA must in fact be the responsibility of the organization writ large, although usually led by only a handful of EA Subject Matter Experts (SMEs). These SMEs plan, rollout, and manage a more ubiquitous type of approach to understanding and contributing to the EA of the organization, often focused on wide-ranging business processes, architectural building blocks, capabilities, and value realization. In addition, EA is tapping and integrating the contributions of Solution Architects, Systems/Software Engineers/Architects, Business Process Modelers, Business Analysts, and Portfolio/Program/Project Managers.

So, yes, the old EA King is largely dead, but a new and even more valuable one is rising up to meet the daunting challenges of a rapidly transforming business, government, and technology landscape.

Authored by Dr. Steve Else, Chief Architect & Principal Instructor