Ideal Circumstances for EA Frameworks

Ideal Circumstances for EA Frameworks

Significant touchstones, at least for some people, some of the time, the series of hype cycle devices published annually by Gartner inform and guide industry behaviours, lead and shape the formulation of strategy.

Three features of the current enterprise architecture hype cycle1 are noteworthy, or thought-provoking, or self-evident:

  1. Whole-of-Government enterprise architecture has been cancelled due to lack of interest and because it is unlikely to deliver transformational benefit… except under ideal circumstances.
  2. Enterprise Architecture Frameworks are on notice, because they’re implemented as a whole insufficiently often to make solid ground, they’re probably a decade away from delivering benefit, and too many enterprise architecture practitioners are distracted by them.
  3. Enterprise Architecture as a discipline “…proactively and holistically leading enterprise responses to disruptive forces by identifying and analysing the execution of change toward desired business vision and outcomes” is moving into the plateau of productivity, and the discipline of enterprise architecture will deliver transformational benefit within the next few years.

Tying these features together and thinking about what they mean for my own enterprise architecture practice generates the following simple good-vs-less-good system:

  • Old School: heavy-framework approaches tend to be neverending documentation exercises capable of producing enormous amounts of exactingly-beautiful and perfectly-irrelevant families of well-organised zero-benefit enterprise architecture artefacts.
  • Change-Friendly: the ultimate outcome of enterprise architecture is change-friendly capability delivery3

…and some unanswered questions:

  • Ideal Conditions: what are the ideal conditions under which enterprise architecture (as a discipline) and enterprise architecture frameworks (as a belief system) and whole-of-entity enterprise architecture (where “entity” might be a division, an enterprise, a government, or a global corporation) may thrive and deliver the transformational benefit they promise?
  • Measuring Benefit: particularly vexed and repeated plaintiffly everywhere, the question of how we as a community of enterprise architecture professionals measure (and communicate well) the benefit delivered by the enterprise architecture discipline.

Whether emergent, pace-layered, pragmatic, lean, agile, or just-enough — by any name, involving enterprise architecture in change initiatives, in strategy formation, in policy review, in service design, in everything, usually leads to improved outcomes.  This happens through a focus on the discipline, values, and core principles of enterprise architecture, rather than through the naked and contextless application of the heavy frameworks.

With the enterprise architecture discipline thriving, and in some areas undergoing a resurgence, we might yet as a community of practice be able to create for ourselves those very ideal conditions under which the frameworks, too, might thrive… what are the ideal conditions for enterprise architecture to succeed?

  1. Burton, B. & Allega, P. (2012) Hype Cycle for Enterprise Architecture, 2012, Gartner Research, Article ID #G00234608
  2. Gall, N. (2012) Gartner’s 2011 Global Enterprise Architecture Survey: EA Frameworks Are Still Homemade and Hybrid, Gartner Research, Article ID #G00226400
  3. Enterprise Architecture in 140 Characters, Brenda Michelson, Elemental Links,

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