Monday, October 26, 2009

The Death of Enterprise Architecture?

- Introducing Smart Ecosystem Architecture (SEA)

In recent months there has been considerable debate about Enterprise Architecture or EA. Practitioners who have embraced EA are now hotly discussing whether EA is a business or IT architecture and the balance between the two domains. Without any doubt most EA today is IT focused even though practitioners know it shouldn't be. And the new EA standard TOGAF 9 merely reinforces this. Although there is a vocal lobby who would like to gain more power and influence in the enterprise by taking the lead in business architecture and design, typically they are unable to achieve this because they can't articulate or demonstrate why the business should let them.

Yet my own observations are that EA has not been an overwhelming success. The tensions between EA and delivery teams remain undiminished. EAs are frequently out of touch with delivery issues and do not command the respect needed to exert strong governance over the delivery work streams. From an SOA perspective, there are few enterprises that have delivered a comprehensive Service Portfolio Plan, let alone the implemented enterprise service portfolio. You may wish to ponder on whether this is a failure of EA or SOA. I couldn’t possibly comment!

Many years ago when we published the first CBDI Maturity Model we recognized that SOA maturity would be defined by the ecosystem. This maturity stage followed the enterprise stage. I will readily admit that in the early days the ecosystem stage was ill defined; in fact no one was interested. Apart from a small minority of enterprises that have always operated an ecosystem business model, the focus of attention was always heavily on the enterprise. Today we can see things have moved on apace. Various influences particularly Complex Event Driven Architecture and Smart Business and IT are strongly predicated on optimizing business design and processes involving all the ecosystem stakeholders. Examples:

- Airlines, airports, airport concessions, airport services, hotels and rental car companies form an ecosystem that optimize their resources and prices on a dynamic basis dependent upon external events, raw demand and actual traffic. Actually we wrote a research report around this model years ago – see reference.

- Smart power grids with tighter linkage between customers, suppliers, generators, assets and operations manage power supply to optimize use of green energy, price to consumers and profitability.

- Also see IBM's Smart Planet site. Reference below.

The emphasis on business optimization is very interesting. This means that conventional architecture domains of operational systems, business intelligence (BI) and management information (MI) become much more inter dependent and dynamic. New types of information, perhaps conventionally classed as operational, now become critical MI. Real time feedback loops require derived information to be available in the operational timeframe. Conventional (sic) SOA layered architecture policy requires extension to manage new patterns.

In these examples of the new enterprise each participant collaborates to optimize the overall ecosystem and in the process optimize their own position vs their collaborators. In this world the architecture is absolutely not enterprise wide. It is goal driven, focusing on a scope that is business results driven.

Does this mean that EA is dead? As discussed, in its current form EA has actually been less than successful. The current level of debate is merely confirmation of the patently obvious. Personally I recommend a more practical approach to architecture that is more grounded with stronger relationships and shorter feedback loops to business value and delivery projects. Given the current issues with EA it would be expedient to have unambiguous naming without the baggage of EA. I am temped to say that Business Architecture works because most grownups understand that Business and IT are indistinguishable at this stage of the game. But I see a lot of immature debate from EAs that want to elevate EA away from IT, which is plainly wrong. Also I don’t have a strong opinion on the "role" of EA. Rather I worry about the nature of the architecture. I want to get everyone thinking about a new perspective and scope.

On balance therefore I prefer a naming that emphasizes the architecture scope and deliverables, the differences from what we have been doing and the need for change. I suggest Smart Ecosystem Architecture (SEA).


IBM Smart Planet

CBDI Report: Modeling for SOA - Worked Example - The passenger departure process - from arrival at the airport to boarding the plane.

CBDI Report: A Web Services Maturity Model


  1. Well written David. At IASA we strive to make the common name IT Architecture as IT is indistinguishable from business at all levels in the same way that Finance, Sales, Manufacturing are all quote, the business. We believe that architecture brings a maturity to the value chain from technology to the executive committee and shareholders. To be sure the EA and BA are not related to IT crowd is very noisy but they are a tremendously small percentage.


  2. There are many things today that refer to themselves as EA but they clearly are not. However, we are turning a corner, and there is a general wakening to true EA and the true value of EA. Now IMO is not the time to change the name. By doing so, we simply have a new title for those who practice bad EA to hang their hats on and corrupt.

    However, in principle, I agree with the sentiment that what some call EA clearly is not. They are the problem, not EA itself.

    The Enterprising Architect

  3. Hi David,

    You mentioned above that the ecosystem stage of CBDI Maturity Model in the early days was ill defined. I wonder if that has changed today with more industry recognition that SOA is really about an ecosystem or space in which people, machines and services inhabit and interact as autonomous participants for the exchange of value. In fact, this is the premise from which OASIS develops its Reference Architecture for SOA. Also, recently Gartner has proposed a new approach to enterprise architecture, calling it Emergent Architecture -
    Not sure about the right name, but I am certainly expecting SOA at my workplace to emerge under the conditions of proliferation of decentralised solutions, scarce resources, rapidly-changing business processes to meet ever-changing market conditions, autonomous stakeholders, the relentless march of open source technologies, social computing, mashups into the enterprise solution space.


  4. Not sure that the roots of the issues with poor adoption of EA or likewise SOA should be resolved with changing the name.

    EA is a different angle on looking at the deployment of solutions. Solutions architects are pushing their project, EAs should guard the estate. The roles are the same whether done within a contained Enterprise or a wider ecosystem which tends to be the way now.

    Despite much written about it, EA is still however quite an immature world. I am yet to find a common view of architecture patterns out there that is not software level patterns promoted to enterprise. Much is still to be done on this, TOGAF, Zachman, etc are a great start but this is mainly oriented around the process. Enterprise architect need to develop and maintain the pragmatism from the ground (too often they are theorist in their glass tower) and academic references about how to develop enterprise architectures (too often they become enterprise architects because they did a few solution architectures).

    For those who think that EA is dead, just imagine leaving the build of a tower like Canary Wharf to builders alone. Yes they can stack bricks on top of each other but the likelyhood of the whole project coming together is very slim without an Architect. In my experience even the smallest loft conversion benefits from an Architect overseeing the work... same goes for architecture of computer systems.

  5. Apologies for not replying sooner - excellent comments. As you see the thrust of my thinking is that architecture is essential, but it's more about what the scope of that effort needs to be, and I believe the answer will be classified as "post enterprise". I termed that ecosystem, but I am not really expecting any change of name, rather I am reminding us all and encouraging the mindset that recognizes that ecosystem comes after enterprise in maturity model. Best, David