The Future of EA is no EA

An excellent blog post by Jeff Scott from Forrester on the future of EA has got me thinking about the most likely future state of EA in DCC.

The most obvious future and one which i entirely agree with is that EA as a function will disappear in time. My previous post about mainstreaming ICT functions supports this view as everything becomes a core business competency. But what happens between now and then and what direction are we really moving in and more importantly what direction will the organisation accept us to move in?

In my personal opinion i would suggest the there are two options which are most likely in DCC over the next few years and i think we are likely to end up with both of these scenarios:

Scenario 3: EA remains in IT, largely focused on technology architecture.This seems to be the most likely outcome for small to medium sized IT organizations. In this option business architecture will be developed primarily as input into the technical architecture. The key to success here will be for EAs to evolve from technology planners to true IT strategists.

Scenario 4: EA remains in IT but becomes more business focused.This model will be prevalent in medium to large IT organizations where IT has developed a strong partnership with the business. Here, EAs will be welcome at the business planning table and will be well regarded by business and IT for their ability to match business needs with IT capabilities. The business architecture focus here will be business-IT alignment. EA’s resources will be about evenly split between BA and technology initiatives. Successful architects will be very business savvy but keep their technology roots.

There are some justifications behind my thinking which i will share with you now.

Scenario 3
The likelihood of this future is related to a number of key factors – the ability for the EA team to maintain business people within it.  If this is maintained then this future will become less likely, however without real Business engagement and acceptance across all areas of the organisation to the benefits of Enterprise Architecture as an approach and not just conversations between ICT people and Business people trying to bridge the gap, then we will inevitably resort to Technical Architecture work.

Scenario 4
The likelihood of this future is already taking shape, our new ICT strategy is very much business focused and we already have a team in the business who are leading on Information Architecture. The challenges for this scenario however are again the ability of the team to engage with Business people and to maintain the business skills already developed in the team. However i would suggest that over time the focus of the team will be driving the technical architecture in response to the business. I also think that the business architecture function will not only be about Business/IT alignment but the architecture of the IT function itself.

If we get to a point where the IT function has had appropriate levels of business architecture then it would seem a likely next step to embrace Scenario 1 and 2 – The EA team disappears as a unique function and is absorbed totally by the Business as a core competency.

In my humble opinion we would have succeeded as an Enterprise Architecture function if this outcome is achieved.

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Lost In Translation – The trouble with Business/IT Alignment

One of the biggest challenges with business transformation and technology enabled change, is the ability of both people in the business and in IT to sit down and have a conversation with each other and for that conversation to be fully understood by all concerned. Ok, there are many other challenges such as benefits realisation, programme management, culture change, but aren’t they all people based and therefore conversation based?

Now i am simplifying this somewhat but it is a challenge that people in IT and that includes me now (my previous role of corporate web manager was based within corporate communications)

To give an indication as to the issue i thought i’d use a video from you tube. It is 40 seconds long and is about the German Coastguard.

What i find interesting about this video is that for me it kind of sums up the challenge faced by IT. In the video the guy has all the technology he needs in front of him to do his job and support a wider network of other professionals, who all have the same goal (save people). However with all that technology what lets the person down is the ability to understand the “customer”.

The ability to have “conversations” is becoming the new skill that people require in order to support change. Now i also want to make the point that people in the Business also need to learn how to have better and more productive conversations with people in IT.

Now having worked in the Business for some time, i can already hear people saying “Why should i learn how to interact with IT?” Well the answer is simple, as the pressure of budget reductions increases, technology will become even more critical for progressive business transformation across organisations. It is therefore a priority for Business people to get a real understanding of the applications that support their business and the opportunities they present. If Business people can’t do that then we end up losing the opportunities as they get “lost in translation” between IT people (who don’t understand business) and Business people (who don’t understand IT).

This is however a journey we all have to make together, as a partnership, a fellowship, a collaborative effort, whatever the terminology we decide to choose. Like most journey’s the value is not the destination but what you learn along the way.