A&G’s recently concluded 2011 Annual Survey reveals that EA groups are actively engaged in a wide range of initiatives that will have business impact well into 2012 and beyond. The data also reveals that these groups are having influence beyond their traditional IT focus.
Those are just two observations from the survey that covered topics ranging from the key initiatives that EA groups are working on, to the level of executive leadership support, the perceptions and measures of EA success, and the future of EA in respondents’ organizations.
The survey was conducted between August 10 and August 17, 2011. The results represent 203 respondents from the readership of A&G magazine. Sixty-eight percent of respondents carry the title of chief of enterprise, business or technical architecture; 80% of respondents are from commercial organizations; 20% represent federal organizations; 50% of respondents report directly to the CIO or office of the CIO; and 55% work for organizations reporting more than $1 billion in annual revenues.
A&G has conducted several surveys over the last few years. In each case, the diversity of responding organizations, as well as the fact that individual respondents are self-selecting from a passionate and engaged community, is a factor when interpreting results. Overall, though, we view the large proportion of respondents in EA-related roles to be a net positive. They reflect a community of practitioners who have had some success in their respective organizations and are in environments where success, however defined, is possible. In general, individuals with a negative or uninformed perspective on EA, or in organizations unfriendly to EA, did not represent a significant proportion of respondents. Results should be interpreted against that backdrop.
The overall findings of the survey suggest diversity in interpretation of the EA role by the practitioners and by their leadership. Looking broadly across the results, it appears that some respondents interpret the role of EA to be strategic and transformational, while others see it as biased to expedite the delivery of infrastructure and solutions. It is likely that some see it as both, though it is difficult to tease out that conclusion from the results. In any case, each group apparently experienced leadership acceptance and defines success in its own terms.
Many in the larger EA community hold one of two dogmatic views: that EA must be wholly strategic, or wholly delivery-oriented, to be considered “pure” EA. A&G’s editorial opinion, and that of this author in my research and advisory role, believes that EA can and should be both. An EA team should lead in identifying the details of a future transformational direction for the enterprise as well as guide the organization to achieve it. The results of the survey are encouraging and suggest that respondents collectively see it that way, too. They are practical, realistic, and have balance in the work they do.
THE WORK WE DO
Enterprise architects (EAs) responding to the survey find themselves deeply involved in the key initiatives that are reshaping today’s businesses: cloud computing, mobilization of the workforce and business consolidation, data center consolidation, and application portfolio rationalization. They are split almost equally (figure 1).
When asked to identify the primary EA initiative at their organization, 36% cited application portfolio management and 33% identified business consolidation and/or restructuring. Over three-fourths (76%) of respondents said these primary initiatives impact “all the facets of our business and is highly visible to top level management.” These responses show that, for many EA groups, the emphasis has moved dramatically away from technology and infrastructure to a focus on business design and the portfolio of solutions. This requires a much higher emphasis on business architecture, consistent with the trend identified in last year’s survey.
Many EA groups find themselves now participating in application portfolio management (APM) activities, which were begun several years ago as a cost-cutting maneuver. Now, though, this participation is more from a strategic, business transformation, and restructuring perspective. When asked specifically about their plans relative to APM, nearly 60% said they either already have an APM program underway or plan to start APM in the next twelve months. An additional 27% said they plan to start APM in two years. According to the survey, there is plenty of opportunity to retire or eliminate applications within today’s organizations (figure 2).
THE SUPPORT WE HAVE
An important element of EA success is awareness and support from enterprise leadership. One good measure of that is the executive team’s involvement in EA decision making. Survey respondents indicated that 82% had leadership that is very or somewhat involved in EA activities. That degree of awareness is extraordinary in historic terms. In prior years, similar questions indicated that many, and in some surveys most, leaders had no idea what EA was (figure 3).
This increase can most likely be attributed to the emphasis on business architecture mentioned earlier in this article. Business architecture requires EA to engage in more strategic and transformational conversations with business-side personnel. Eventually, we expect to see business architecture fully owned and executed by business personnel in partnership with IT personnel. When achieved, this will complete the evolution from the “IT-centric” architecture variant practiced today to true enterprise architecture.
PERCEPTIONS AND MEASUREMENTS OF SUCCESS
When asking what is important for EA success in your organization, respondents were consistent with the previous question; 27% identified that executive sponsorship is critical. When actually measuring success, the respondents identified several key performance indicators (KPIs) as critical. These were split evenly between process, programmatic, and financial measures, as expected. Unexpectedly, 32% did not have any measures at all, and it isn’t clear how to interpret that result. In today’s typical IT environment, it is unusual to find any functional unit that isn’t managed against a set of measures. Does it mean that the EA group is somehow operating under the radar, or that leadership isn’t sure how to measure them, or something else? In a future survey, we hope to explore that question in more detail (figure 4).
THE FUTURE OF EA
This question is a perennial entry in A&G surveys. We usually expect positive results, mainly from the factor identified earlier, that the people who respond to this survey are self-selecting, are generally fans of EA, and are practitioners that have a vested interest in EA success. Plus success breeds success. Once a certain amount of EA momentum is attained in an organization, it can sustain itself barring any extenuating circumstances such as business downturn and leadership changes. It can even grow through incremental and maturity-leaping improvements such as business architecture adoption. This year proved to yield very positive results, with EA momentum sustaining or growing in fully 94% or respondent organizations. Whatever the reason, as fans of EA ourselves, we can’t help but want to take the most optimistic view possible—that EA is here to stay (figure 5).