Saturday, August 29, 2009

Has EA gone for a Burton?

@mikerollings, an analyst with the Burton Group, invited Brenda Michelson to check out his free report Enterprise Architecture is more than Engineering, so I thought I'd take up his invitation as well.

Mike Kavis had started the discussion with a comment on Twitter: "Everybody is struggling with the value of EA for us little guys while I see it each day." In reply, Brenda had suggested that the problem was "many equate EA w/jumbo frameworks and rigid governance, rather than set of values and practices for capability delivery". This was what prompted Mike Rollings to issue the invitation.

Meanwhile, Aleks Buterman claims to have a "secret sauce to measuring value of EA" but won't let anyone see the recipe. I think this is a pity, because I believe a credible measurement formula needs to be open, transparent and calibrated on a range of different organizations. I hope he's working towards making something public.

Before we look at Mike Rollings' own report on EA, let's take a quick look at his criticism of Gartner, provocatively entitled Gartner wakes out of an EA induced coma ... (11 August 2009)

"Thank you Gartner for validating my claim that prevailing wisdom about EA is washed up and the pursuit of building an EA admiration society is not the predominant goal of EA.  Thank you for further illustrating that living in a mythical world where EA is king is just dead wrong."

And he continues with a plug for his own firm

"Want a new approach for enterprise architecture? Read Burton Group's EA research."

So I did (see edited highlights below). Mike's report identifies three familiar problems, and then makes four fairly bland recommendations. Is this really a new approach? Unfortunately, there is a "disconnect" (one of Mike's favourite words) between these two sections, so the recommendations don't demonstrably deal with the problems. (Indeed, readers with real experience of EA may see ways in which Mike's recommendations might make some of his problems worse. For example, there are several plausible arguments for having an eclectic approach to EA, but it isn't clear how this is going to solve the problem of disconnected EA artifacts.)

While Mike's understanding of EA problems appear to be underpinned by his adhoc observations of EA in practice, there is no sign that his recommendations are based on anything more than common sense. Therefore nothing to stop him, when he is arguing with Gartner, coming up with an entirely new set of recommendations (see below).

In my opinion EA is in crisis, and it needs a lot more than disconnected recommendations based on common sense and/or prevailing wisdom. More than engineering perhaps, but where is the value proposition for Enterprise Architecture?

Edited highlights of Burton report

Problems facing EA
  • EA has minimal influence. I have spoken with teams that could not gain traction - their artifacts were disconnected from each other and lacked relevant guidance. I have also seen beautiful architectures ... that go unused.
  • Lack of participation and commitment. A lack of participation can fuel and be perceived as the ivory tower syndrome, which is a natural outcome of organizational isolation.
  • Mismatch with the domains of the effective CIO. Most EA programs are heavily skewed towards a single domain: implementing and managing technology.

Burton recommendations
  • Avoid using frameworks like a precise cookbook for architecture. A variety of methods (unspecified) should be used to capture, communicate and share design information. Enterprise architects employ both manual and mechanical tools in a purposeful way.
  • Align with your organization's operating model. The operating model is fundamental to the business. Effective EA programs align with the operating model and do not over-reach the level of standardization or integration determined by the business.
  • Be results-oriented. Successful EA programs are action-oriented and help get things done. People understand how the EA program works. They also understand the contribution that EA team members make as participants in other IT processes.
  • Do not settle for comparisons: Understand what needs to improve. Maturity assessments can be very elaborate. At a minimum they should evaluate the following EA program characteristics: Business Alignment, EA Program Oversight, Communication and Change Leadership, and Governance. By examining these characteristics with an open mind toward change, an improvement plan can be created to improve EA related outcomes.
New recommendations (Mike Rollings via InfoQ, 26 August 2009)
  • Rule-Breaking: If rules are being broken it can signal outdated thinking and the need for something different.
  • Entrepreneurial: Value of IT comes from being transparent about your business contribution.
  • Self-Educating: Embrace varying ideas, collaborate vigorously and respectfully, assure that you tap into the variety of perspectives that exist. 
  • Bonding: The lack of influence is probably a main cause of your EA coma.
  • Visionary: Be a leader, be a team player, participate and collaborate.

Update: Burton Group gone for a Burton

The Burton Group was acquired by Gartner in January 2010. Mike Rollings is now a Gartner Analyst.


bmichelson said...

Relatively bland indeed.

The one insightful point comes straight from Ross & Weill in their excellent EA as Strategy book:

"Align with your organization's operating model. The operating model is fundamental to the business. Effective EA programs align with the operating model and do not over-reach the level of standardization or integration determined by the business."

Guess I don't need to take up the reading invitation... -brenda

AAB said...

I have to agree w/ Brenda on blandness of Burton report. It's not even as earth-shattering as Gartner's recent attempt to rename pragmatic approach to EA as "emergent".

As far as the "secret sauce" goes, I'm not an analyst - I am a consultant, so TIMM (which is plastered all over our company website) is competitive advantage for a boutique player like me against the behemoths. Based on repeated requests from analysts, I have offered to let them review a 'sensitized' part of it that is coming out next week. So far, a few folks have accepted, including Forrester analysts.



Anonymous said...


When Brenda mentioned some of the classical problems with EA that prompted me to send a link to the free report from over a year ago. The report "Enterprise Architecture is More than Engineering" was published in May 2008. Since then Burton Group has issued many pragmatic recommendations on how to improve EA. The post "What to do when waking from an EA induced coma" lists several reports that have been published over the course of the last year since the release of that first report at the launch of the coverage.

It seems that attacking a document that set the stage for further discussions that is over a year old is a bit unfair.

Mike Rollings
Research Director, Enterprise Architecture
Burton Group

Jeff said...

I am a very large fan (In terms of respect, not just physical stature) of Alex and Brenda. So, the fact that both of them commented on this note caught my attention.

I tried to write this all as a comment, but decided that it would make an adequate post which I hope you'll read.

You can find it Here

Richard Veryard said...

Mike reckons my criticisms are unfair because (1) the report I'm criticizing is over a year old and (2) it wasn't intended as a report in its own right, merely as a stage-setting exercise, and (3) his recent reports are better.

My problem with Burton's "free sample" is not that it appears a little dated, but that it gives an impression of an analysis process that fails my three criteria of quality industry analysis: rigorous, practically relevant and empirically grounded.

I am delighted to learn that Mike's later reports contain more pragmatic and up-to-date recommendations, and I trust they are based on rigorous empirical analysis rather than merely debating the pros and cons of "prevailing wisdom".