An insightful perspective from Neil Ward-Dutton (tweeted by iansthomas) talking about the nature and scope of Enterprise Architecture.
I am very firmly in the camp that says that EA has little or no relevance unless it covers the strategy-to-execution space, and covers it in a deeply embedded way…
Architecture teams are well placed to be able to translate well articulated strategy into useful models, and can often actually do a fair-to-middling job of this from ivory towers. The first challenge, however, comes from the fact that a sufficiently “well articulated strategy” is rarely forthcoming from organisations’ Strategy teams. I am yet to witness the richness of strategy articulation required to create meaningful and executable architectural models that deliver all of the nuances of cultural intent given in a powerpoint deck and an afternoon’s workshop with “some key individuals.”
Architecture’s value is being significantly diluted if it is just “taking strategic orders” … good EA that is providing a clear framework and quality facilitation for the thinking and output articulation of strategy-to-execution increases the capability so often missing in an organisation: showing strategists how to talk to executors, and executors how to understand strategy. It makes strategists credible amongst those allergic to ambiguity, and executors approachable to those frightened of risk logs!
The real challenge with “how to define it [architecture] or draw a boundary around it” is that the moment you start to provide genuinely useful frameworks and facilitation either upwards into strategy or downwards into execution, there is a significant pull on the capability in either or both directions. Because Architecture (and even average architects) can add value so broadly, its boundaries will always be stretched to fill voids in adjoining functions / capabilities … the upside to this is an even deeper understanding of your customer (increased “Enterprise Architecture as a conversation”) … the downside is a resourcing nightmare!
So, what do I believe is the most important part of the practice? Is it “all about the tangible deliverables – the set of models that get created” or is it “at least as much about the way that those models are created in the first place.” … i just don’t believe that the tangible deliverables can have any integrity without the “collaborative, open acts of creation and refinement” referred to by Neil W-D. It isn’t just EA as a conversation… it is “growing the Enterprise as a conversation!’ The space that Architecture inhabits is to generate the meaningful conversations that are fundamental to both the strategic lifecycle of the business and its execution lifecycle; to do any less is to deny your organisation your full value.