Blog post

Challenged by relevance? Make EA disappear.

By Mike Rollings | May 24, 2010 | 1 Comment

TransformationHuman Behavior

Today is my first post to the Gartner Blog Network (GBN) and it is good to be back on the air.  Ever since the acquisition of Burton Group by Gartner I have been looking forward to sharing my opinions again with my regular readers and with the readers at GBN! 

For those of you who have read the Burton Group Executive Advisory Blog, you know that I am the Research Director for Enterprise Architecture at Burton Group.  I believe in making enterprise architecture (EA) relevant to business outcomes.  I focus more attention on human behavior, influence, and collaboration than enforcement, compliance, and ivory towers filled with dogma.  My goal is to help people and organizations get out of their own way, and many times this means unlearning bad habits that inhibit progress.  I like to apply EA in concert with elements of many other business and IT disciplines, as opposed to thinking that one has all the answers.  I’m looking forward to having an ongoing conversation with you about effectiveness, behavior, and relevance.

Helping architects get out of their own way…

Recently I presented at the Open Group Conference in Rome about a dual perception that exists regarding EA.  This dual perception affects an EA practitioners’ ability to become business relevant. Practitioners recognize that EA helps an organization unify the planning, optimization, and design of its business with the technology environment that enables it. However, the majority of non-practitioners do not recognize that planning, optimization, and design are related to EA. They may not even be aware of the term “enterprise architecture” at all. 

The use of EA’s unique language (e.g. referring to methodological terms, abbreviations) in interactions with non-practitioners does not help.  It is like deciding to adopt Esperanto as your language for communication with the business and other technologists!  It might be handy shorthand for talking with other architects, but it is less than helpful when speaking with anyone else and making what you do relevant to their context. 

The dual perception challenge lies squarely in the hands of practitioners and the EA community. Practitioners should stop thinking that success is measured by how well the organization can quote EA terminology or by solely evaluating the maturity of EA. Instead, they should focus on being business relevant. But this requires a context shift away from an EA-biased view to the context of business outcomes. It also requires that practitioners make EA practices relevant to the context of each individual, and demonstrate value by how the discipline is applied to each outcome.

For the global EA community, this shift in perspective means realizing that people with an EA title or technical affinity are not the only ones practicing parts of the EA discipline. Therefore, the EA discussion must be contextualized for a broader businessperson audience. If businesspeople—technology and business professionals included—have to decipher the EA terminology before they can become aware of the value to be gained, then EA will be irrelevant.

I believe the global community of EA practitioners must move away from its technology focus and realize that we are all businesspeople in pursuit of business outcomes. What do you think?  Do you think that the unique language of enterprise architecture gets in the way of delivering value?  Do you think we are ready for a change?

Burton Group IT1 clients can read a related research document here.

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1 Comment

  • Graham Johnson says:


    Intertesting observations that in my experience are very close to the fact. The frustrating issue for we poor research students is that the research evidence that backs these observations is unobtainable lacked away behind a pay-for-view wall that we canot afford.

    Liked the blog post though.

    Melbourne, Australia