by Alex Cullen

The state of enterprise architecture

May 02, 20115 mins
Mobile Apps

To better understand the current state of enterprise architecture in the enterprise, Forrester conducted a global online survey of more than 400 IT professionals who are either responsible for EA or familiar with the EA function in their company.

This survey covered topics from how architecture is organised and where it reports to priorities, and key upcoming architecture decisions. We also asked questions about the overall IT organisation, IT priorities, and the state of architecture initiatives to put the information about architecture in these firms into the larger context of the overall IT organisation.

EA Is Most Frequently Centralised Or Federated And Reports To IT’s C-Level Three out of four EA teams follow a centralised or federated structure, with a nearly even split between the two.

This split is quite similar to how IT organisations tend to be structured themselves — however, only 40 per cent of the professionals we surveyed reported that their EA function followed the same structure as their IT organisation — a sign of limited clarity around the best way to address organisational needs.

However, EA’s reporting relationship has stayed largely the same over the past year, with just over half reporting to a C-level executive in IT. Interestingly, the data suggests that the EA team’s success or acceptance is independent of where it reports and relies more on the mission assigned to the EA team.

Acceptance And Support For EA Remains A Mixed Story Each year, Forrester asks its survey participants to rate the level of EA acceptance by different areas of the firm. In 2010 there were still difficulties with corporate management and even within IT.

Surprisingly, the greatest difficulty is not hostility toward or dismissal of EA, but unawareness that it exists. Especially shocking in 2010 is the lack of awareness by developers and others in the IT community — and that developers are perceived as the most hostile.

Some Specialised EA Roles Are Becoming Less Common In Central EA Teams In 2010, Forrester saw many of the typical roles remaining in the central EA team. Compared to 2009, this year’s data shows nearly identical figures on the existence of application, infrastructure, information, solution, and business architects.

But while there were no increases year-on-year, there were some decreases. For example, in 2009, nearly half of organisations reported having the security architect in the central EA team but that number decreased to 40 per cent in 2010.

Granted, that is not to say that these roles are disappearing. It’s more likely they are shifting into other teams closer to their specialties.

EAs Expect Collaboration, Content, And Application Technologies To See The Greatest Change Over the next three years, data, network, management, security, and server architecture aspects are expected to be the most stable elements when it comes to architecture change.

Conversely, changing business needs and hot technology topics — like mobile, social, and cloud — are driving great amounts of architectural change in the areas of collaboration, content platforms, user devices, and in all aspects of applications (integration, platforms, and architectures).

Better Planning, Apps Consolidation, Business Agility, And Alignment Are The Objectives The endgame of IT’s strategic functions is the same across the board: ensure that technology provides the best value.

EA’s approach to this has been planning around technology consolidation — which remains an underlying theme moving forward. The greatest change in EA drivers from our 2009 survey is the increased priority on better strategic planning and application consolidation — nearly one out of three EA organisations cites one or the other as the primary driver.

The high-level EA objectives are notoriously elusive — especially to a function that faces limited acceptance and difficulty wrangling the funding to move forward.

In 2011, EA will emphasise its communications and will get involved in project investment processes (see chart above). IT project portfolio management (PPM) is accepted because it uses financial terms and follows a process similar to the portfolio management concept that business executives are familiar with.

By connecting with this process and injecting EA concepts, EA can demonstrate value, while at the same time gain a more transparent view of the technology investment road map.

Priorities Are In Line With Needs, But Another Challenging Year Awaits Without question, EA’s priorities are correctly aligned with business goals. However, successfully achieving these priorities requires EA teams to actually get involved with investment processes, provide value to them, and communicate their tangible contributions.

Immediate impact will come from:

Progress with business architecture. The discipline and resulting artifacts of business architecture are what will connect EA to improved planning and investment decisions. Business capability maps are an extremely valuable artifact to bring to the program management office — the common PPM process owner — and provide an entry point into the process. – A shift from technology focus to business focus. The business does care that its technology rarely fails and that it supports operations — certainly not as much as it would care if it saw a map between technology investment and the desire to produce a new revenue source. EA groups that can understand the technology implications of these goals can help map out the vision and embed their expertise in the success of that vision.

Alex Cullen is Vice President and Research Director at Forrester Research

Pic: Canned Muffinscc2.0