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The State of Enterprise Information Architecture

by Mike Walker  |  July 23, 2014  |  14 Comments

In my opinion, the importance of Enterprise Information Architecture (EIA) cannot be overemphasized. We are in an information driven world, full stop. This becomes even more clear as we look into the future of technology. As you can see from the Gartner 2014 strategic technologies list (http://www.gartner.com/newsroom/id/2603623), many if not most are all predicated on the usage of information.

The good news is there’s no shortage of information to fuel those innovative trends. With this information explosion occurring all around us, the industry is seeing over a 50x growth in data from 2010 to 2020. That’s 80 exabytes to  40,000 EB that’s all coming from what was thought of in the past as the most unlikely sources: our wrists, our cars and even our refrigerators to name just a few.

The question then becomes, what we do with that data? Well use it of course.

This is where EIA comes in. This will be one of the many topics I will be addressing within the EA team here at Gartner. Naturally as I’m getting started I want to get an idea of the current state of EIA. To do so in a more speedy fashion I thought I would do an initial Survey to understand what enterprise architect feel where the state of EIA really is.

The State of Enterprise Information Architecture Survey Results
This survey was a set of 10 simple questions that was deliberately kept at a limited scope. However the respondents came from a variety of enterprise architecture organizations of all sizes, maturity levels, industries and geographies. With the sample size of nearly 40 respondents I believe we are just scratching the surface on a universal understanding of EIA, however I think it’s a great start to understanding this problem.

Below you can see the demographic split of the respondents. Note in the “other” category it is mostly comprised of consultancies and technology providers.

Mike Walker Gartner EA Blog: EIA Survey Industry Breakdown

In this point I will provide a summary of the results that came back from the survey. You will find extended information in future research notes that I publish on Gartner.com. You’ll also notice below with the simplification is that I have distilled the information into categories so we can better understand the results into these three areas:

1. What is EIAs Impact and Current Implementation
2. How is/ or should EIA be used on Strategic Initiatives
3. How do Enterprise Architects Define EIA

 

#1 Implementation of EIA and it’s impact
The first two questions that are asked (outside of demographic information) are around how the enterprise architect thinks about the current state of implementation of EIA and it’s relative importance to enterprise architecture success. I thought it was important to get a good grounding to understand do people really value EIA or not along with you they think that even if they should do EIA that they find that it’s valuable.

When asked: “What level of impact do you feel EIA has delivering Business Driven Outcomes?” 93% of respondents felt that EIA has a significant or a high degree of impact on delivering business driven outcomes.

Mike Walker Gartner EA Blog: EIA and Business Outcomes

 

HOWEVER… When asked “What is the current state of your EIA practice?” the results provided reflected this: Only 16% felt that EIA as a practice had been fully implemented or mostly implemented.

Mike Walker Gartner EA Blog: EIA Practice Status

 

These data points could mean many things, however, I am not surprised by these results. From what I’ve seen broadly industry-wide there seems to be a low emphasis and low understanding of what enterprise information architecture is as a practice but people do hold information and data in extremely high regards. As I reflect back both in my personal career and as I speak to customers I tend to see that in the past there have been a heavy focus on technology and applications and data and information was an afterthought.

I predict that this is going to dramatically change over the course of the next nfw years. Not because we want to but because we have to.

 

#2 Using EIA to Drive Strategic Initiatives
Questions looks at EIA applied. But I wanted to know here is this Enterprise architects felt that using Enterprise information architecture that you made A difference or not. So the question that I asked in the survey was, “What level of impact do you feel EIA has on major information disruptors like Big Data or traditional data architectures like MDM?”

It may be no surprise to any of you with the result was of this question but here it is:
96%, Yes 96% of enterprise architects felt that the impact from enterprise information architecture on major disruptors has a high or significantly high impact on the success rates of those initiatives. That only leaves 4% that felt that there was a moderate impact with 0% feeling that there was a low impact.

Mike Walker Gartner EA Blog: EIA Impact to Technology Disruption

That’s an overwhelming majority of enterprise architects that feel that enterprise information architecture is essential to these major trends. However, when we look at the first area of our survey, Implementation of enterprise information architecture and its impact, we see that while we realize that enterprise information architecture is important it is still lacking in implementation into our enterprise architecture organizations.

 

#3 Defining EIA
For this last section I asked the survey respondents to pick from the list of existing market EIA definitions. There was a very clear in prevailing definition that stood out from the rest of the definitions. 60% of the respondents they felt that this definition represented enterprise information architecture:

Information Architecture is an aspect of enterprise architecture that enables an information strategy or business solution through the definition of the company’s business information assets, their sources, structure, classification and associations that will prescribe the required application architecture and technical capabilities.

With the rest falling into this order:

  1. EIM Institute (19%)
  2. Wikipedia (14%)
  3. Open Group TOGAF Data Architecture (5%)

 

Conclusion

From this survey it is very clear that Enterprise Architects regardless of size, type and services offered uniformally agree that EIA is a powerful tool to enable their enterprises.  However what this data does tell us is that while EIA is important (or maybe even critical) we still don’t have:

  • A collection of proven practices
  • The right structures and framing for the EIA space
  • Proven methods that result in predicable and predictable outcomes
  • A clear organizational and competency structure for EIAs

 

I’m excited to start to chip away at this problem and provide some compelling research for enterprise information architects along with those that aspire to be.

 

My Asks of You

  1. Please provide feedback in the comments below 
  2. Provide any specific topics you would like me to talk about on this blog
  3. If you have questions or specific areas of EIA that you would like more information on please post it in the comments below

 

 

Category: 

Tags: ea  eia  information-architecture  

Mike Walker
Research Director
1 year at Gartner
18 years IT Industry

Mike J. Walker leads, develops and establishes compelling enterprise architecture research that helps organizations understand how to improve or deploy an enterprise architecture program that will improve business outcomes, realize strategies and improve the quality of business and technology decisions. Read Full Bio


Thoughts on The State of Enterprise Information Architecture


  1. […] Source: The State of Enterprise Information Architecture […]

  2. […] The State of Enterprise Information Architecture […]

  3. Mike Walker says:

    Thanks for your great feedback Mike. I would also be interested in hearing your input on what you see from the UX side of things as this world refers to information architecture but in a slightly different context.

    Good suggestion on the links. Yes, I will include more linkages back to research and events as time goes on. I want to make sure it’s applicable to the post as well.

    Thanks again!

  4. […] The State of Enterprise Information Architecture“In my opinion, the importance of Enterprise Information Architecture (EIA) cannot be overemphasized. We are in an information driven world, full stop. This becomes even more clear as we look into the future of technology…The good news is there’s no shortage of information to fuel those innovative trends. With this information explosion occurring all around us, the industry is seeing over a 50x growth in data from 2010 to 2020. That’s 80 exabytes to  40,000 EB that’s all coming from what was thought of in the past as the most unlikely sources: our wrists, our cars and even our refrigerators to name just a few. The question then becomes, what we do with that data? Well use it of course.” Via Mike Walker, Gartner […]

  5. Randy Clarke says:

    Interesting survey results, Mike. Keep up the good work!

  6. Brian Loomis says:

    I would totally agree – EIA is an understated differentiator for commercial businesses. Most of the interest in machine learning nowadays seems to reflect a belief that information has been locked in individual systems, and not only has been un-combined with other information to provide insights into customer behaviors and interests, but also has significant monetization potential.

    • Mike Walker says:

      @Brian – You hit the nail on the head. From my research and talking to clients I am finding a shift from “iT” -> “It” . All the major trends from cloud to social to IoT to Smart Machines are all predicated on information. It’s an exciting time for folks that are looking at the information space.

  7. Dalia says:

    I find it interesting that you don’t address information architecture outside of enterprise architecture. IA as in IA Institute http://iainstitute.org/. It’s the practice making sense of information (IA) and then applying it to an organization (enterprise).

    • Mike Walker says:

      @Dalia – Thanks for commenting. You bring up an interesting point and one in which we have identified in our research. There are quite a few usages of information architecture. Right or wrong there is fragmentation in this space whether it’s data driven (DAMA), information driven (IA Institute), User Experience (UX) (multiple design sources) or business information driven (Enterprise Architecture). My research focuses on EIA which is used exclusively for the Enterprise Architecture discipline. While I don’t agree on the over usage of the term IA, practitioners like yourself should focus first on the business problem they are solving, then look to the right discipline and tools to help and finally execute.

      Thanks!

  8. Laszlo Fazekas says:

    Hi,

    good start. Interesting would be to see the results just for those responders who implemented EIA fully or mostly in order to differentiate between those who already have experience and those who jsut want to have EIA. For example there should be a significant difference in the approach of EIA, or may just in the industry they coming from?

    • Mike Walker says:

      @Laszlo – Thanks for stopping by and commenting. I certainly agree with you on that point. However, before I went directly to that point I wanted to make sure that we all had a grounding of what state EIA is in general. The next step is now to do research in the area you had identified.



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