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This guest post comes courtesy of Larry Fulton. Larry is an independent consultant who spent 14 years as a solutions and enterprise architect at UPS and 3 years consulting on, among other things, strategic integration infrastructure issues and enterprise service bus (ESB) technology as a senior analyst at Forrester research.
The enterprise architecture community is always surprising
to me for its enthusiastic optimism - remember that this is a field where the
majority of us spend a lot of our time explaining what we do and why it is
valuable, often to our own management. Attendees were very clearly engaged in
the session topics, there were plenty of insightful questions, and the attendees
I spoke with personally saw a lot of value in the material presented. The focus
was on the practice of EA rather than specific technical aspects of modern
enterprise architecture, which of course begs the question what EAs are doing to
stay on top of the technology landscape.
Gartner sees the influence of EA growing over time,
especially in those organizations where EA is successfully involving itself in
the business and its processes. Aside from the expected pro-EA and
how-to-improve-credibility messages, I heard a number of new and refreshing
perspectives on EA and its future:
Gartner's Anne Lapkin confronted the "Is EA an art or a
science?" dilemma head-on, and clearly stated that many aspects of EA are in
fact an art. She was referring specifically to the real work of fitting and
re-fitting EA's mission to the current and evolving needs of real businesses.
There may be a lot of well-defined process around the tools of the trade -
modeling various aspects of current and future architecture, establishing
effective governance processes, and so forth - but it takes real insight based
on experience to assess what EA can and should be doing to help the business
succeed, and to know when that needs to change as the business itself evolves.
This is an area where many experts, have been reluctant to come right out and
say, "Look, you need to have the right leaders, and you can't necessarily just
pick someone who is skilled in another area and expect to train them to this
level of EA perspective". Another way to say this is that skilled solutions
architects need to be part of EA's activities, but solutions architects don't
necessarily have the perspective to define the EA
Betsy Burton's sessions illuminated the reality that
enterprise architects often must fill the role of counselors - working with
disparate teams with different perspectives to find common ground and move
forward. On the broader business front, this same theme emerged in her
recommendation that enterprise business architectures need to include a model of
how people actually work together in an organization.
She also mentioned that EAs need to spend at least five
per cent of their time playing so they can remain aware of current technologies.
My own opinion is that this is not enough - unless you can commit at least half
a day each week to some kind of research, which is to say at least ten per cent
of your time, it is very difficult to stay on top of important
I particularly enjoyed Bruce Robertson's session on
"architecting for emergence". He talked about "EA light", or ways that EA groups
should focus on what matters the most and promote application team innovation
elsewhere. The idea of establishing policy and technology "guard rails" that
essentially say you can do what you like as long as you conform to these
particular things and as long as you don't do these other things is not new.
But, looking at an organization in a methodical way to identify exactly those
rules that really matter and promoting choice elsewhere is where many EA groups
need to be headed. Certainly his advice to EA groups to understand local
influences and priorities and their relationship to enterprise influences and
priorities is a good idea for any EA group, and especially those operating in
One of the keynote speakers, Mark Rashino, represented in
my opinion the central message to EAs - IT needs to ask itself, "What new
strategic capabilities can I offer?" When CIO's are asking themselves that
question but don't have an answer, where will they turn? EA needs to be ready to
answer that question, whenever it is asked.
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