9 years, 3 months ago

Q&A Series: The Value of EA and BPA

In November and December, Gartner released the Magic Quadrants for Enterprise Architecture (EA) and Business Process Analysis (BPA) respectively.  We thought we’d discuss some of Gartner’s observations about trends in both EA and BPA along with many questions we’ve heard from our customers and prospects over the years.  We are thrilled about our leadership positions in both of these reports; however, I can’t help but think that many of our customers who use our tools could be getting far more from their EA investments. While EA and BPA tools are maturing it seems like many decision makers in large organizations don’t have a clear, holistic understanding about the value they can bring to the table. Over the next few days I’ll be taking a deep dive into some of the most popular questions organizations have about EA and BPA.

Question: What sort of value do organizations achieve from Enterprise Architecture?

Answer: Almost every article, blog post, seminar, and book about enterprise architecture (EA) includes some mention of the need for enterprise architects to demonstrate move value to the business.  The truth is that few architects get much practical, actionable advice on how to do that. Many business leaders don’t really understand the value of various frameworks and taxonomies and have a difficult time understanding the attention to detail that architects focus on when developing their modeling methodologies. Not only do business leaders not understand, but many are unwilling to take the time to learn. I’ve seen business mangers glaze over when architects start talking about something as simple as their modeling assumptions.

The most successful companies embrace architecture as a way to instill a discipline that drives the translation of business strategy and vision into the enterprise to facilitate the change needed to reach the broader business goals. Architecture also defines the path for an organization to evolve as it implements those the necessary changes. In today’s hyper-competitive global economy organizations cannot depend on a few “individuals” to instinctively make the right decisions to manage and execute this type of large-scale change. Especially when companies are focusing on objectives like improving customer experience and consistency across all channels of communication, the focus on individual contributions can actually impede the success of the broader goal.

To expand on this point, take a minute to read a recent blog post by HP’s Terry White, which cites research by Dana Gartner, president and principal analyst at Interarbor Solutions, and Jeanne Ross, Director and Principal Research Scientist at the MIT Center for Information Systems Research. Among other important things it suggests that to fully realize the value of architecture, “there’s a cultural shift that takes place in an organization, when it commits to doing business in a new way, and that cultural shift starts with abandoning a culture of heroes and accepting a culture of discipline.” Organizations have to strive for a higher level of maturity and embrace a new culture of discipline before they can fully realize the value of architecture.

This is not to say that organizations with less maturity don’t derive value from EA. Organizations  have demonstrated millions of dollars in savings with architectural initiatives focused on Application Portfolio Management, IT management, compliance and improving the effectiveness of key processes.  So my answer to this question is the value that organizations can achieve from EA initiatives depends on the business problem you are asking your architecture team to solve. Companies who view EA as an essential discipline for business transformation derive significantly more value than companies who take a more narrow view.

In fact, many of our customers who have taken the time to connect with the business teams have also seen an increase in their penetration and acceptance by the organization. However, keep in mind that this requires constant coaching. Realization of a deeper value of transformation can be accelerated when architects become more skilled at identifying key business leaders that understand the value of leveraging best practices, standardization, process optimization, or other capabilities enabled by good architecture. I recently had a conversation with one of our larger customers, one of the world’s largest financial institutions, who told me that he needed to have 150 conversations with key business leaders to open the door to another 150 conversations that he needed to have to drive the kind of value his team was able to deliver.

What do you think? Stay tuned for our next question in this series and feel free to let us know what questions you’d like answered.

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