January 18, 2013 – Enterprise architecture is evolving with more business outcomes in mind, though there are clear strategic moves that separate the best and worst projects, according to a Gartner expert.

A Web seminar on the best and worst practices with enterprise and application architecture was led Thursday by Gartner VP and Distinguished Analyst Betsy Burton and VP and Fellow Andy Kyte.

In North America, Gartner finds that 62 percent of enterprise architecture efforts are focused on aligning IT and business vision, which indicates that nearly two-thirds of businesses have moved from the initial technical guidance stage into wider strategic engagement. When it comes to that engagement, 23 percent of enterprises reported their enterprise architecture efforts were “collaborative” between business and IT, with another 34 percent reportedly in the entry level of engagement. Twenty-eight percent of respondents to that question deemed their enterprise architecture engagement as “limited,” and 14 percent reported no engagement, either due to failure of efforts or plans that just aim at technology decisions. Burton said this engagement has increased greatly even from four years ago, as more initiatives are underlined with the business engagement and returns.

“It’s not just about reconciling IT systems. It’s really about driving that business value across your organization,” she said.

From her analysis of those survey results and discussions with enterprise architecture IT and business leaders, Burton said the most successful approach is evolving into one centered on “business-outcome driven EA.” 

“No longer am I going to say I need to create a bunch of artifacts and stick them into a repository that the business might find valuable,” said Burton. “What I’m starting out with here is finding where the business is trying to go, what are the disruptions that are going to affect me, and what are the actionable deliverables that management needs.”

That business-outcome approach is based on these five areas of deliverables: operational, or the communications, resources and governance of EA; enabling, the support, models and requirements; diagnostic, the EA analysis tools; actionable, the business change roadmaps and reference documents; and measurable business outcomes and exceptions. Senior executives are often most interested on actionable results, while architects, by nature, spend most of their effort on operations and enablement. Throughout, Burton said that set of deliverables should be predicated on a game plan of business delivery with the expectation of disruption – “What are the questions senior executives are asking themselves? And how can I help us move forward?”

From a strategy basis, Burton recommended the following three-tier approach for enterprise architecture project leaders:

  • Change the way you think: Frame every comment in terms of business outcomes, value and business performance.
  • Show value for money, meaning the right services at the right level of quality and the right price.
  • Position EA in investment terms, including near- and long-term business performance.

On the opposite side of the spectrum, Burton outlined her baker’s dozen of “worst” enterprise architecture practices. The EA methods that Burton said muddied efforts and missed overall business returns are as follows:
1. No link to business strategic planning and budget process.

2. Confusing "IT Architecture" with "Enterprise Architecture."

3. Lack of governance.

4. Too much standardization.

5. Focusing on the art/language of EA rather than the outcomes.

6. Strictly adhering to architectural frameworks.

7. An "Ivory Tower" approach by IT and EA team members.

8. Lack of communication and feedback.

9. Limiting the teams to IT resources.

10. Missing performance measures.

11. Picking a tool before understanding business needs.

12. Focusing on the current state first and primarily.

13. Thinking that implementation equals completion.

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