Jason Bloomberg’s thoughts on Enterprise Architecture in Forbes


Bloomberg's EA thoughts in Forbes

There’s an interesting article by Jason Bloomberg in Forbes, that has been doing the rounds in the EA community, entitled “Is Enterprise Architecture Completely Broken?” I find it an interesting article because while he makes some very good points about the state of Enterprise Architecture, I would like to go a bit further in addressing the factors behind this.

To start with, the Forbes article observes that the majority of enterprise architects either end up just documenting their current state, or don’t even get that far before they are cancelled. “Stories of stalled or misdirected Enterprise Architecture initiatives vastly outnumber bona fide examples of Enterprise Architecture efforts leading to measurable business value.” I can confirm this. I have seen more than my share of people with the title “Director of Enterprise Architecture” who are basically sitting on their own, drawing diagrams or running a “body shop” of solution architects.

But why is this? Mr Bloomberg quotes Angelo Andreetto of Zurich Insurance - “Digital transformation is a fantastic way to rethink Enterprise Architecture.”

This is great, unless the people who have the power are not looking to become transformed and here lies the problem.

Some, even on the business side, don’t appreciate the problem of enterprise debt. Some do, but simply don’t care. Why should they care when they will likely be in a new position in 2 years’ time? They care about their quarterly objectives. They certainly don’t want to spend their time, and their staff’s time, on possibly endangering their position. I did see one, multi-billion dollar company where one of the CIO’s direct reports spent most of his time trying to get the architecture group disbanded.

So unless the Enterprise Architects have a mandate to go around interrupting people and shaking things up, they are always going to find themselves blocked from fulfilling the promise of Enterprise Architecture.

There are two ways forward. One, which Mr Bloomberg’s article proposes, is that Enterprise Architects focus on engaging with the business, proposing radical new solutions, and so on. The cold reality is that this kind of engagement is usually only going to come via some external strategy consultancy – there are the people the C-suite look to for transformative ideas, not the IT department.

I have seen a few IT departments take another tack. Some of our customers are taking the approach of applying Enterprise Architecture to just their department. That is, start mapping out systems, operations and so on and producing recommendations within IT. To date, most of the cases I’ve seen have been based on IT roadmapping - but I’m starting to think that maybe the whole ‘rethink our department’ as a showcase of how Enterprise Architecture can offer value, could be an effective guerrilla approach to this problem.