Monday, April 22, 2013

The single eye of enterprise architecture

There is a famous phrase
In the kingdom of the blind, the one eyed man is king
IT has always had a problem communicating with the business, and the business communicating with IT.  To fix this IT created something called Enterprise Architecture which aimed to provide a framework around the internal IT estate in a manner that helped that conversation. We can argue how successful that was but what is clear is that with the rising consumerisation of IT and the massive increase in technical literacy amongst business people that this boundary approach to IT with EA as the gatekeeper isn't really going to work.  Historically the EA function was that one-eyed man, it had enough depth in IT to provide some control and enough engagement with the business to act as the leader through the challenges of IT.

The business isn't blind to IT anymore.

So what has been the reaction?  Unfortunately it appears to be in some cases to take a single-eyed view of the problem, a single eye looking through a single lens.  That single eye recognises the increase in sophistication of the business and sees the rise of Value Networks and Business Architecture and thinks 'Oooooh, we have to do the business architecture stuff as well' and makes that a sub-section in the overall encompassing enterprise architecture.

This is missing an opportunity.  A huge opportunity.  EA was created in an era where IT organisations were internal only and where external integration was extremely rare.  In the world of SaaS, Cloud, Social and OpenData however this is no longer the case, outside-in is the norm.

Sure we need groups to looking at integration standards and help with IT operations, but the communication with the business doesn't need an interpreter in the same way anymore. Business Architecture is a rightly growing area but its not a subset of EA, or even an extension of EA its a discipline in its own right, one that owes more to business schools than to IT departments.  So what does IT need to do?  Well it needs to be able to translate that architecture into solutions much more quickly.

IT needs to look at the business with two-eyes again, not try and extend and old concept through its own view of the world.

4 comments:

Tom said...

I really like how your class timings of your blog. I enjoyed reading your blog and it is both instructional and interesting.Thanks!
thue dj gia re

Tim Halbur said...

I wanted to agree with Tom, I thoroughly enjoy reading your blog. I find that I am in agreement with your thoughts on a number of subject areas, but what is great is the way that you are able to help me crystallize my thinking. For example, on this one, I think we've been struggling for a while with our EA program, and I haven't quite been able to put my hand on exactly why. The idea that the business and IT communication method/process has evolved over the past years is an excellent way to describe the differences, and one I will use when talking to others.

Steve Jones said...

Cheers, the communication model has changed and we need to deal with that in IT.

Anonymous said...

A few thoughts...
Agree - EA thinking that BA was just an extension was naive and just plain wrong.
Secondly, communication is a two way process - both sides need to see some value in that communication and both sides have o recognise they may need to invest in it. The blame for failure of Business/IT communication lies at everyone's door.
Lastly - perhaps one of the route causes is this business / IT split - them and us. We are all BUSINESS.