Best of the Blog: EA is FREE

enterprise architecture authority

I recently had a conversation with a trusted member of the analyst community. We were reflecting on the current state of enterprise architecture and were comparing notes on the many discussions we each had over the past year with IT executives and EA practitioners.

The good news, we quickly concluded, was that key takeaways from our collective conversations were largely the same. We took some comfort in the notion that after 25 years of academic framework and modeling discussions, commercial enterprises and government agencies seemed more ready to discuss how EA is practically being used to make better decisions that contribute to top and bottom-line results— focusing on outcomes.

There was one observation, however, that we both lamented because it seems as though there is more work to be done before we can truly say EA is recognized as an indisputable must-have for complex enterprises. Each of us recounted the many conversations we had where the question of EA ownership came up.

No doubt you have heard these before. Perhaps you have asked them yourself. The question for the most part is: “Should EA be owned by the business or IT?”

In an effort to provide a simple answer to a loaded question, my analyst colleague simply and boldly stated, “EA is free”—everybody owns it. He then referenced a book written 25 years ago by Philip Crosby titled Quality Is Free. In the book, the author sets out to explain the definition of quality to executives in terms they could understand. The book addressed the misconceptions of quality management and related the story of how a quality process was installed into every facet of an organization.

The same concepts that apply to helping organizations achieve world-class quality apply to enterprise architecture. Ask any employee of a service- or manufacturing-related company “Who owns quality?” and they will answer “Quality is everyone’s job.” From the CEO to the engineers to the accountants to the fork-lift operators to the guys who keep the facilities running, each employee has a role to play, no matter how big or small.

However, with that said, while quality is free and it’s a part of everyone’s job, it’s not a gift. It is not magically ingrained into the psyche or DNA of an organization. It takes real work and coordination to make sure every employee knows what his or her role is and is given the right tools to be successful. That job often falls to a team of real quality experts that is responsible for defining and executing quality programs.

If you are reading this article, you are most likely an EA expert and a believer that enterprise architecture works. It’s a discipline that can make a big difference by equipping leadership with the ability to make well-informed decisions that deliver tangible results. You probably do not have to be sold on the fact that most employees in the organization have a role to play in EA, no matter how big or small. You probably also understand it’s the job of the enterprise architecture team to identify the areas that can benefit from EA, introduce the tools that ensure success, and shepherd the organization through the process.

So the next time you find yourself engaging in a conversation or debate regarding whether EA should be owned by business or IT, be bold and proclaim to your colleagues that EA is free; it’s everyone’s job.