Gartner Blog Network

Demonstrating EA and IT Value is not Theoretical

by Mike Rollings  |  October 29, 2010  |  5 Comments

Recently, Twitter #entarch has erupted in the recurring discussion about the value of enterprise architecture. I say ‘recurring’ because illustrating value is a constant challenge for IT and especially for EA practitioners.  This particular Twitter value discussion falls mainly into two piles:

  • Value theory
  • Value realities

Value theorists describe how value “should” work in an organization. Theory would be enough if humans were rational beings. But, like the many studies related to behavioral economics have shown, humans do not always act rationally. So the biggest problem with the rational models discussed by value theorists is that it leaves out the human dimension.  Yet it is the human dimension that makes the application of the theory less prescriptive and much more subjective and situational. This is best illustrated by asking how to apply the theory. The response to “how?” is predictably followed by the statement “It depends”.

The value realities camp (myself included) does not sanitize the value discussion by eliminating the human dimension. The fundamental difference being that to those who are more interested in getting things done, value perception is top of mind (how do you demonstrate value?). Getting things done lives and dies by identifying value expectations and understanding value perception. The value reality camp knows this because they have the war wounds from trying to make things happen in an organization.  When you have been responsible for implementation and have lived (and fried) by value perception, it gives you a perspective that book smarts cannot fill. There is a big difference between discussing value and the generation of value. As a result, a discussion about value realities leads to a discussion of expectations, applied action, and perceptions.

Value management models are useful, but value itself is related to human perception.  Value is ambiguous until defined (remember the eye of the beholder?). Defining value does not mean creating a textbook definition, but working with the humans in your organization to understand what will generate value for the organization and to understand what each person will consider a valuable outcome.  If you apply “book smarts” to what people consider valuable, then you generate value. You can’t ignore the human dimension of value; it is the yardstick determining success.

This applies directly to enterprise architecture value.  Most people who are not EA practitioners do not care about EA theory.  They care about the results from applying EA.  Sure, EA theory, like other theoretical input, provides valuable ideas for someone in EA role, but for the rest of the organization, the outcome from applying “book smarts” is the source of value.  For EA practitioners this means:

  • Learn to describe architecture’s business contribution and value without using EA’s secret language.
  • Deliberately avoid a highly theoretical approach to EA in favor of helping produce results.
  • Describe what you can do to help versus describing EA.
  • Help the broader audience of business and technology professionals use the knowledge of dependencies, implications, and constraints to improve their results.

An EA practitioner may care about the theory, but when it comes to generating value it is important to be a value realist.

Additional Resources

View Free, Relevant Gartner Research

Gartner's research helps you cut through the complexity and deliver the knowledge you need to make the right decisions quickly, and with confidence.

Read Free Gartner Research

Category: human-behavior  management  

Tags: behavior  business-outcome-mindset  enterprise-architecture  it-delivery  value  

Mike Rollings
Research VP
5 years at Gartner
28 years IT industry

Mike Rollings is VP of Gartner Research within the Professional Effectiveness team. His research discusses what IT professionals need to know about transformation, innovation, human behavior, contextual strategy, collaborative organizational change, communication and influence, and cross-discipline effectiveness . His research can be read by IT professionals with access to Gartner for Technical Professionals (GTP) research. Read Full Bio

Thoughts on Demonstrating EA and IT Value is not Theoretical

  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Jovi Umawing, Gary Meadows, Johan Lindberg, toddbiske, Liaison Technologies and others. Liaison Technologies said: EA and IT value is not Theoretical… @mikerollings #entarch. #semantic. #mdm. –>also see […]

  2. I think the question is not only how to demonstrate the Value of EA but what is the Value of EA.
    Here is an article that may help those wishing to Join Mike in the “value realities camp”:
    In particular Mike is right though: you have to address specific stakeholders and their expectations.

  3. […] Rollings (@mikerollings), Gartner wrote a post “Demonstrating EA and IT Value is not Theoretical” where he categorized the comments […]

  4. Reminds me a story:

    As software engineering saying: “My software is perfect, it works fine, the only issue I have is that it is used by people”


  5. I made a prediction the other week, that many companies will start shedding IT architects in the next six to eighteen months. This is not because EA isn’t important, but because EA (as usually practiced) doesn’t provide the business with the tangible benefits that it needs. Why pay for something that doesn’t seem to be delivering any value back into the organisation?

    If you break it down, then there’s only three things that really matter to the business:

    Create a new product, service or market
    Change the cost of operations or production
    Create new interactions between customers and the company

    Explain what you’re doing in these terms and the business will be a lot more interested.



Comments are closed

Comments or opinions expressed on this blog are those of the individual contributors only, and do not necessarily represent the views of Gartner, Inc. or its management. Readers may copy and redistribute blog postings on other blogs, or otherwise for private, non-commercial or journalistic purposes, with attribution to Gartner. This content may not be used for any other purposes in any other formats or media. The content on this blog is provided on an "as-is" basis. Gartner shall not be liable for any damages whatsoever arising out of the content or use of this blog.