The State of Enterprise Architecture and IT as a Whole – Part One

(Editor’s Note: What follows is Part One an interview with George Paras, the long-time Editor-in-Chief of Architecture & Governance Magazine. For more on Paras, scroll to the bottom.)

Question: What was the role of the enterprise architect when you took over as editor in chief of A&G in 2005?

Paras: The discipline was still relatively new and exciting. Most practitioners and their leaders were new in the role, and they were feeling their way. They had high hopes – but there wasn’t much experience about how to make it work. That lack of understanding became immediately evident. Leadership had a hard time determining the value of EA. It was seen by many as somewhat abstract. Leaders wanted direct, short-term value and didn’t have the patience to realize secondary longer-term value.

EA is an enterprise-wide, business-driven, holistic practice to help steer companies towards their desired longer-term state, to respond to planned and unplanned business and technology change.  Embracing EA Principles is a central part of EA, though rarely adopted. The focus in those early days was reducing complexity by addressing duplication, overlap, and legacy technology. With the line between technology and applications blurring, and application sprawl happening almost everywhere, a focus on rationalizing the application portfolio soon emerged.

I would love to say that EA adoption was smooth, but there were many distractions and competing industry trends, everything from ERP to ITIL to innovation. The focus was on delivery and operations, and there was little mindshare for strategic, big-picture, and longer-term thinking.  Practitioners were rewarded only for supporting project delivery. Many left the practice.  And frankly, a lot of people who didn’t have EA-skills were thrust into the role.  That further exacerbated adoption challenges and defined the delivery-oriented technology-focused path EA would follow. It is still dominant today.

Question: How has that role changed through the years?

Paras: Skills, and the lack thereof, affected the evolution over the next several years. Practitioners, industry analysts, consulting firms, and industry consortia turned their focus to the mechanics of doing architecture for projects and not for doing enterprise architecture. That was the skill set of most practitioners, and that was the expectation of IT leadership. They hoped that a forward-looking enterprise architecture would materialize as a result. The emphasis was on methodologies, frameworks, and documentation to record project decisions. An emerging goal was to use those to support IT technology portfolio and application portfolio rationalization.  The focus was on project deliverables over research, thinking, and scenario analyses. It further clouded the proper role and value of EA.

The better news is that in recent years, I have seen a change in how some organizations view EA.  Perhaps it is luck, or maybe companies have again discovered that complexity gets in their way, but I have recently seen a new class of intuitive EA leaders. I am thinking of one in particular, as I answer this question. He has a long-term vision in his mind, can articulate it, and can simultaneously steer the company through a series of short-term initiatives that each deliver new capabilities. Those initiatives further the longer-term big-picture outcomes he envisions. That is the definition of leading through influence in my mind. I hope that trend continues.

Additionally, many of my industry colleagues who study, practice, and advocate for EA have realized that the soft skills of leadership, influence, and communications are a larger part of success than merely perfecting the mechanics of models, frameworks, and methodologies.

In addition to being Editor-in-Chief at A&G, George specializes in helping executives, leaders, and architecture teams realize the value promised from EA-related thinking. He uses a continuous improvement coaching/mentoring approach that is tuned to improve companies at a pragmatic, realistic, yet purposeful pace. He can be reached directly at gparas@eadirections.com

 

George Paras
About George Paras 26 Articles
George S. Paras is editor-in-chief of A&G and an EA mentor at EAdirections. Read his blog at eadirections.com.