My short answer to this question is of course – yes we do need it – however most Enterprise Architecture (EA) today does not deliver the value that organisations demand or require largely due to the way EA is delivered or due to the restrictions placed on it. The way that EA is currently delivered we can do away with. Now it’s time for some real EA!
First of all, what is EA? EA is an architecture of architectures. There exists several methods on the market but all in theory strive to deliver an integrated architecture combining a business and IT architecture from business strategy to work instructions and job schedules . Nevertheless, the real ingredient for a good architecture is not just a good method. A good EA demands strong leadership from the lead architect as well as executive sponsorship from within the organization. The lead architect needs to take place alongside the CIO at a corporate level and alongside the Program Manager in a large initiative.
Unfortunately, the reality is that a lead architect is often rounded at the project level and their deliverables quickly become academic and outdated (as no one follows them anyway). In addition, architecture is often equated with IT and kindly asked to look at bits and bytes……
How to solve this I hear you say. First of all, Lead architects should be given training to take place – boardroom / leadership training and the like. A lead architect needs to be more of a lead(er), more business-like and less academic in approach. A lead architect needs to set-up approval structures (Design Authorities), agreed deliverables and be involved in approving change requests or at least proposing how best to solve change requests. If not given these responsibilities the lead architect needs to take charge of them anyway or take the consequences. If not, the result is a spaghetti of architectures rather than an architecture of architectures. A lead architect does not need to be the ultimate source of truth but rather someone who can take responsibility for the entire solution (business and IT) and know who to consult to get expert advice.
Indeed, Enterprise Architecture will become more and more important in the coming years as organisations take onboard cloud solutions. Although billed as plug and play there is a risk that there will be a lot of plugs lying around and little “playing” unless the organisations think now how they want the clouds to integrate with one another.
So let’s do it right starting with that ongoing initiative which is not going quite according to plan. Get a lead architect in place who can grasp the business and IT side of the solution, who can put the approval structures in place, devise a deliverable structure and take charge of the “how” and the “why” and let the board and Program Manager decide “when” and “who” is going to do it!