Enterprise architecture still a leap of faith for many companies

Summary:Before enterprise architecture, companies 'relied on individuals to do what seemed best.' That won't work in a hyper-competitive global economy, MIT researcher argues.

Good enterprise architecture can give companies an edge, but it's still an inexact science.

In fact, Jeanne Ross, director and principal research scientist at the MIT Center for Information Systems Research, reports she has assembled data, based on 102 companies, that links architectural maturity with high performance. However, she adds, a skeptic could "poke holes" in her findings.  "There still is a certain amount of faith attached to the link between performance and architecture," she points out.

Ross recently made these observations on enterprise architecture in a chat with ZDNet colleague Dana Gardner, as a prelude to her upcoming keynote at The Open Group meeting at the end of this month.

One of the most difficult aspects of introducing enterprise architecture, Ross points out, is shifting organizations' reliance on a few "heroes" who carry around essential processes in their heads. "We want to get past heroes sub-optimizing. What companies traditionally did before they started thinking about what architecture would mean, is they relied on individuals to do what seemed best and that clearly can sub-optimize in an environment that increasingly is global and requires things like a single face to the customer."

Architecture introduces "a culture of discipline," she says. This is essential in a hyper-competitive and unforgiving global economy. "Opportunities to save costs are going to be really valued, and architecture invariably helps companies save money. The ability to reuse, and thus rapidly seize the next related business opportunity, is also going to be highly valued."

The challenge is organizations need to understand the advantages that enterprise architectural discipline can provide. "To add value to your organization, you actually have to understand: how effectively are people in your company adopting the capabilities and leveraging them effectively?" Ross asks. "At some point, the value add of the architecture is diminished by the fact that people don't get it. They don’t understand what they should be able to do."

Topics: CXO

About

Joe McKendrick is an author and independent analyst who tracks the impact of information technology on management and markets. Joe is co-author, along with 16 leading industry leaders and thinkers, of the SOA Manifesto, which outlines the values and guiding principles of service orientation. He speaks frequently on cloud, SOA, data, and... Full Bio

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