April 27, 2010 – By 2015, 95 percent of organizations will support multiple approaches to enterprise architecture, according to research firm Gartner Inc. But the climb to 95 percent has already begun, say analysts,  behind the back of enterprise architecture teams.

With increasing use of open source and accessible consumer technology, business segments can take technology and processes into their own hands. And, they are, says Betsy Burton, vice president and distinguished analyst at Gartner.

Blended architecture is already become the reality and enterprise architecture teams are now simply beginning to participate, says Burton. “How enterprise architects actually support enterprise architecture is the big shift. Teams are realizing that they cannot simply standardize.”

Gartner advises finding the appropriate balance of architectural control and freedom using a combination of four basic approaches: traditional, federated, middle-out and managed diversity, which vary significantly in terms of standardization and choice.

A traditional approach is highly prescriptive, applying cohesive standards across the business and granting exceptions based on need, say Burton. A federated approach, on the other hand, lets business units establish their own architectures, but may establish core common elements throughout the business. The middle-out approach is similarly hands-off when it comes to standards. Individual units can run anything internally, but the enterprise architecture team establishes common interfaces for communication. Lastly, managed diversity is focused on balancing the need for a set of standards with the need for a diversity of solutions. It provides areas of the business with architecture choices rather than a single standard.

When using a mixture of approaches it is crucial to establish a decision framework that allows for evaluation and discussion about which approach is best suited for each solution, technology, information or business, according to Gartner.

Most companies are already supporting a combination. The key, however, is making sure they work together to support the business strategy, says Burton. “It doesn’t matter what your approach is for enterprise architecture. You won’t get value from it if you don’t know what your business strategy is.”

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