Friday, June 12, 2009

EA: Think Globally, Act Locally

#eac2009 The IRM Enterprise Architecture conference in London this month continued some of the themes of the Open Group Enterprise Architecture conference in April, and I saw many of the same faces.

One of the main themes was the scope of Enterprise Architecture. Many people argued strongly that EA was not just about IT but about Business, and this came across from Chris Pott's keynote.

Not everyone agreed, however. When Roger Sessions challenged Chris from the floor, putting the case for the continued relevance of IT to the enterprise architect, there was a ripple of assent around the audience.

EA undoubtedly has a credibility problem if it aspires to sort out broader problems of "the business" when it is currently perceived to have had limited success with its original remit - the narrower problems of IT planning.

Roger posted the question on Twitter: "Two enterprise architecture camps: focus on the global vs. focus on the IT. Which are you?" Most of the replies took the side of the global. Nigel Green linked to something he had posted to his blog last year (What is an enterprise architect?) and said "I'm the 'global' if you mean Business Technology a la Forrester ... EA is about biz transformation not just IT". Anders Ƙstergaard Jensen said "EA = S + B + T from which we can infer that EA is global", and Colin Wheeler said "I think Enterprise Architecture is a logical framework in which the business can make rational decisions. Definitely part of the global focus for me".

It was Tom Graves who found a way of reconciling both positions, by quoting Patrick Geddes' slogan Think Global, Act Local.
"Global. IT alone is too narrow ... Lack of whole-org EA creates problems for IT. Act local (IT) think global (EA). Apply EA in detail for IT-systems etc, but always remember the global." With most of the others, Tom remains convinced about the importance of the global. "EA is architecture of enterprise, not IT - IT is just an implementation, nothing more - drop the IT-centrism!!".

Roger suggested a compromise. "
You can't deliver high value IT unless you know how IT relates to the organization as a whole. The role of enterprise architecture is to bring a holistic perspective to IT." Or perhaps ""The role of EA is to bring a holistic perspective to IT-supported business capability."(miket0181)

There is clearly a wide gap between AS-IS (enterprise architects frustrated within the IT department) and TO-BE (enterprise architects respected across the business). Even if we go along with Chris Potts's line that enterprise architecture is a form of corporate strategy, there's a way to go in most organizations. Nothing wrong with thinking about the future, but some enterprise architects have got a day job as well.

1 comment:

David Sprott said...

Extraordinary really that this debate should even be joined! In my experience "The business is IT and IT is the business". David