A recent blog entitled: “EA is Strategic Planning” highlights a sentiment by many enterprise architects (a widely abused moniker) that what they are doing is new, ingenious and necessary. I’m still not convinced. Whilst one cannot decry the skills, expertise, knowledge and ability of many enterprise architects I am yet to see a cogent argument that what they do is either cost effective or necessary.
The enterprise has done remarkably well since the Dutch East India Company was granted its royal license in 1600. The rise of the enterprise has not abated and diversified companies such as Du Pont and ITT have shown that complexity and size are no obstacle to good, valuable shareholder growth.
IS EA JUST GOOD IT?
I am in two minds: (i) EA has certainly helped the IT community with complexity by bringing a portfolio view ICT programs, but(ii) EA has added no significant value to a listed company (beyond just good sense, well delivered IT programs) or reduced its risk to such an extent that would warrant dedicated EA.
EA has likely been the product of a traditional lack of the requisite skills to translate the social value of collaborative software into corporate monetary value. It is worth noting that embedded systems (such as robotics) and operational systems (systems that a given corporation simply cannot perform its operations without) are not included in this assessment as their value to the business can be calculated in a simple NPV assessment of projects, i.e. the system will directly result in higher discounted cash flows. That this should be the job of a programmer is nonsense. That large commercial enterprises are only beginning to adopt social media systems (which people have been using for years) highlights the general inability of enterprises to grasp the financial value of subtle and complex ICT.
SO WHAT DOES EA OFFER?
Enterprise architecture is not strategic planning. As much as I like David Robertson’s book “Enterprise Architecture as Strategy”, it is farcical to suggest that the structure of an organisation should either come first or drive (other than the broad parameters) the functional design of the business model. If EA is to deliver value to the organisation then it must reach beyond large, complex IT. To add real value it must be the the function which is capable of reaching across the business siloes to solve the problems which the corporation does not even yet know it has.
ENTERPRISE ARCHITECTURE AS A SEPARATE DISCIPLINE
Enterprise architecture must grow out of its humble ICT beginnings if it is to have the boardroom caché and intellectual gravitas necessary to drive strategy. EA must develop beyond it systems engineering fundamentals and extend its validity into the statistical relationships between technology structures, information performance and shareholder return. Only in this way will EA be able to communicate the financial return which subtle and complex MIS systems can add to a company. Whatever enterprise architects believe they can do they will not get the opportunity to display their value, beyond simple tenders, unless they can convince the finance function.