Moderator: George Paras, A&G Editor-in-chief
Panelists: Mike J. Walker, Principal Architect with Microsoft
Aleks Buterman, Founder, SenseAgility
Tim Westbrock, Managing Director EAdirections
Paul Preiss, CEO, IASA
This was a certainly a lively panel, and I don’t envy George’s task of trying to keep it on track. Here’s what I captured.
Q: What does top performing mean to you?
Mike: High performance for EA is really about having a business conversation to maximize and amplify business results.
Aleks: The ability to quantify value in such a way that stakeholders believe.
Tim: Top performing groups figure out the things they need to do in their organization, whatever it may be, but the common thing is to become more proactive and less reactive.
Paul: There is no such thing as a top performing enterprise architecture team, there is only top performing architecture teams. We can’t leave out the other 90% of architects in the profession. For them, it is the ability of them to claim revenue or shareholder value, owning technology value to the company.
Aleks: Herding architects, especially enterprise architects, is a very difficult thing to do.
Mike: We’ve done a poor job in really defining what architecture is. For Enterprise Architects, is that the right brand? I don’t think it is.
Paul: We care about all of the architects. Enterprise architects account for about 10% of the architects out there. There’s a reason that the term “ivory tower” is associated with Enterprise Architect, because the terms don’t address what 90% of the people do.
Mike: Fundamental issue: we’ve mixed enterprise architecture with IT architecture. Enterprise architecture is business driven and a peer to the CIO whereas technology architecture exists solely within IT.
Aleks: Sustainable innovation is driven by integration across several domains, and that’s what enterprise architecture is about.
Tim: The primary audience is left out in too many organizations. If you’re doing Enterprise Architecture, your audience should be the leaders of the enterprise. Instead, we find our time spent with the domain or solution architect with a mythical translation of the business strategy without ever having validated it with that business leadership. Organizations that do EA the best are actively engaged with the business leadership.
Q: Where should the EA organization report? Does it matter where they report? Should it be centralized or federated?
Paul: Did a survey, and about 95% of the room report in through CIO, only about 7 people in the room report outside of the IT organization. This is a non-entity question. Professions get one recognized value proposition.
Tim: I don’t believe that who you report to and who your audience is are the same thing. Most people report in through IT because that’s where it started. We’re one of the few organizations that deal with things enterprise wide. We’ve been saying that we should be aligned with the business for 15 years. We all gravitate toward the comfortable. Most of us came from the project role or domain role. When it gets hard where we can make a difference by going outside of that mold, the tendency is to retreat to what is comfortable. We need to get out of our comfort zone and go talk to business activities and figure out what we can do to help them, rather than what we can do to help projects work better.
Mike: On certifications: no one is getting sued over a bad software development project (Paul disagreed, says IASA is working on some such lawsuits). All up, there is a lack of accountability within IT, we have not done a good job of being credible with the business. If 80% of all IT projects fail, have we earned the trust of our audience? We haven’t earned a seat at the table, and we need to do so through incremental benefits.
Paul: We simply haven’t claimed a seat at the table. For example, we built a website for online retail and made a company $100 million. Marketing claimed success, and got their budget increased. We need to claim the value we deliver.
Q: How do we quantify top EA performance?
Aleks: when we are dealing with large scale environments, you can’t claim a seat, you have to be invited. If you don’t toot your own horn, no one else will. The way to do so is through metrics that make sense to the business leaders. You may not have a P&L, so you need to have partners that bring you into the discussion. You quantify the value to stake claim to your seat at the table and get invited in.
Tim: I don’t think you can quantify the value of enterprise architecture. We need to get much better at quantifying the impact the EA makes on the decisions that are made and the investments that are made. EA, by itself, has no real quantifiable value. We need to quantify the value of our impact.
Aleks: Should we be called investment managers instead of enterprise architects?
Mike: We haven’t talked about the soft skills required to be an enterprise architect.
Paul: IASA states the fundamental value of architects is the ownership of technology and its value. Technology investment is a fundamental driver for profitability in today’s marketplace, yet we continually treat it as a cost center. 60% of capital expenditures is technology, yet it is the only set that doesn’t have a robust set of NPV, etc. at the shareholder level.
Q: What pointed advice would you give the audience to get to where they need to be?
Q: Back to where EA should report…
Aleks: EA should report to the board of directors
Tim: Separation of responsibilities where business and information architecture report into the business, and application, technology/infrastructure, and data architecture report in through CIO.
Mike: Agree, but we need to look at the maturity of the organization throughout. Each industry has different principle drivers that influence the organizational structure and how you implement your architecture team. If you are a mid-sized bank, do you invest in a federated EA approach? Perhaps not, we have to be pragmatic and morph to the organization. We need a set of patterns that can be applied where they work.
Aleks: We have a guide called Enterprise Architecture as Strategy (Jeanne Ross book). If you have a diversified operational model, there are severe constraints on how much value you can add. Depending on what your operational model is, it will influence on how you structure EA.
Paul: Reporting doesn’t have any impact on the profession. We’re going to find it really hard to change the perceived value for our profession which is technology strategy. There are very few architects invited to talk about the sales process, except to make a model and understand the technology impact.
Back to how we can get there…
Tim: A lot of modeling that goes on is very bounded and implementation oriented. There are models that can’t get done within project/budgeted work. It’s part of the overhead for enterprise architecture. Do you have these models? If the answer is no, or some, then go create them. It’s a communication device that allows us to have the conversation. It the places where it happens, the communication tools need to be established so the EA can talk with the CEO. The CEO isn’t going to go to the CIO and ask to see the Enterprise Architecture guy.
Mike: All people are different and have different motivations. Our key to success depends on our ability to effectively communicate our value prop and what’s best for the organization to all of those stakeholders.
Aleks: You need to know the constraints you’re operating under according to the operating model, and you need to understand if you have an evidence-based management culture. If you don’t have an evidence based culture, it will be more challenging.
Tim: My experience has been that the models we create are nowhere near evidentiary. They tell a story and get people who have focused on making a silo as efficient as it can see how their decisions have impact the entire organization. It’s a hard conversation to have without visuals.
Paul: People have come up to me and said I get asked about SDLC problems, and we aren’t even doing architecture. Architects need to have skills in human dynamics, this is where we see architecture teams weakest. Second is business technology strategy, talking about business value and how do we make more money. Architects get tripped up on focusing on project success which is measured wrong. It’s not about done on time and on budget, it’s about the value it delivers.
Aleks: Think about the environment you’re in, just because something worked it one situation doesn’t mean that it will work in another. Find out what the stakeholders need to hear, and deliver that, rather than espousing the gut of EA.
Mike: Change our mindset, shifting from IQ to EQ focus. Think about the method of delivery, be action oriented and pragmatic. Finally, we have to always be about value.
Paul: Connect the architect team. Get them all on the same team understanding that we’re doing the same thing. Connect them on a skill level.
Tim: Spend time reading non-technical literature that is relevant to your business.