Enterprise architecture still a leap of faith for many companies

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."

Topic: CXO

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  • RE: Enterprise architecture still a leap of faith for many companies

    The problem with Enterprise Architects is alot of them aren't engaged in development frequently enough to understand how the standards and patterns that they put in place may impact actual development. Instead of taking the time to do a POC, they attend conferences, learn some concepts at a high level and expect their developers to carry them out. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. I think Enterprise Architecture is more successful when it garners consensus with the coleagues that actually have to implement it.
  • RE: Enterprise architecture still a leap of faith for many companies

    The current state of an enterprise is constantly evolving and changing which impedes the work of any architecture effort, since the "heroes" are rewarded (by management) for time to market/quick win solutions, as opposed to the long term efficiency and optimization benefits that a true architecture driven /effort and enterprise can provide. I agree that organizations don't "get it" . For enterprise architecture to be successful, IMO, you have to have more than passive aggressive support from your executive team.
    Tom Lane