by Galen Gruman

The Path to Enterprise Architecture

Dec 01, 20062 mins
Enterprise Architecture

Since 1974, the Center for Information Systems Research (CISR) at MIT’s Sloan School of Management has been studying how companies generate value from information technology. As part of that research, we developed a case study in 1995 of Johnson & Johnson’s efforts to develop shared infrastructure services for subsets of its 170 autonomous business units. We noted that J&J’s infrastructure had been developed to support the way it traditionally had done business—not the way it wanted to do business going forward. We quickly learned that J&J was not alone. And that realization led us to the concept of enterprise architecture, one we decided to explore in depth.

Over the next 10 years, we developed case studies on about 50 IT infrastructure transformations, ranging from technology standardization to ERP implementations and e-business initiatives. Every company we studied faced essentially the same problem: The business could not function as it wanted to unless IT created new capabilities, but IT could not implement those capabilities until and unless the business changed.

We came to understand this dilemma as the challenge of enterprise architecture, and we sought out companies that were moving aggressively to resolve it. We found that companies such as Cemex, Delta Air Lines, Dow Chemical, MetLife and UPS had each embarked on a journey to re-architect their enterprises and build IT capabilities around that new architecture. Switzerland’s IMD joined the research and let us extend the reach of the study to European companies such as ING Direct, Toyota Motor Marketing Europe and Schindler.

From those nearly 50 case studies, we developed a model for architectural maturity that we tested in 2004 by surveying 103 companies around the world. The survey provided further evidence of both the existence of architecture maturity stages and the value of architectural maturity. The findings from our case study and survey research are highlighted in the accompanying article and in our book, Enterprise Architecture as Strategy: Creating a Foundation for Business Execution.

–Jeanne W. Ross, Peter Weill and David C. Robertson