Selecting the wrong person as lead enterprise architect, and not engaging business people are two of the biggest pitfalls organisations face when trying to establish an effective enterprise architecture (EA) programme.
Gartner analysts have identified the 10 biggest EA pitfalls, as well as practical advice on how organisations can avoid them.
“Avoiding the pitfalls in the first place is much easier than climbing out of a hole you’ve inadvertently tumbled into,” says Scott Bittler, research vice-president at Gartner. “Applying the ways to avoid these pitfalls results in achieving EA benefits faster and reduced risk of programme failure. It will also improve the credibility of IT among business leaders.”
The 10 EA pitfalls are:
* The wrong lead architect: Gartner identified the single biggest EA problem as a chief architect who is an ineffective leader. He or she may understand EA well but has ineffective leadership skills that even a good organisational structure and staffing levels cannot overcome. Gartner recommends that such a lead architect be replaced by someone with strong ‘soft’ skills such as enthusiasm, communication and passion, as well as being well respected and strategically minded.
* Insufficient stakeholder understanding and support: This happens when employees outside the EA team don’t participate in the EA programme, EA content is not used in projects and management questions its value. Gartner’s solution is to make EA education and communication a top priority to secure executive-team sponsorship. “The key is to ‘sell’ first and architect later,” says Bittler.
* Not engaging the business people: When IT and business goals are not aligned, resultant problems include non-technical people trying to make technical decisions while enterprise architects become too reactionary and tactical in response to projects. To overcome this, Gartner recommends that enterprise architects get involved in the development of the business context and engage jointly with other employees in the business architecture.
* Doing only technical domain-level architecture: This dated EA approach is still in use in some organisations and is even narrower in scope than technical architecture. Holistic EA best-practice is much broader as it includes business, information and solutions architecture.
* Doing current-state EA first: Successful EA provides prescriptive guidance but current-state EA does not, so it delays delivery of EA value and hinders the creation of good future-state EA. “The temptation is often to do the easy – current-state – EA first,” says Bittler. “Instead, establish the business context and then focus first on future-state EA.”
* The EA group does most of the architecting: This is a pitfall because the EA content is typically off the mark as it was not informed by those on the business side. There is also consequently no buy-in for the EA. The primary job of architects is to lead the EA process rather than impose EA content on the organisation. They should form virtual teams to create content and seek consensus on the content.
* Not measuring and not communicating the impact: The value of EA is often indirect, so it may not be obvious to everyone in the organisation. This then exposes the EA programme to risk of failure. Gartner recommends that enterprise architects create a slide to demonstrate each success story of EA applied to a project. They should include measurement and documentation of EA in the programme plan.
* Architecting the ‘boxes’ only: Enabling better business agility and integration is key but architecting standards for the ‘boxes’ (business units) in process, information, technical and solutions models doesn’t address this. Integration and interoperability standards are high EA priorities and must account for more than just technical architecture. Architects should focus more on the links between the boxes.
* Not establishing effective EA governance early: Enterprise architects must resist the temptation to wait for more architecture content before setting governance processes and instead develop content and governance in parallel.
* Not spending enough time on communications: Key messages about EA are not intuitively obvious, so enterprise architects must work to educate the business. It is critical that organisations develop and execute an EA communications plan with messages tailored to each audience.
“The key for enterprise architects is to create not the perfect or most elegant architecture for the moment, but the most adaptable architecture for the future,” says Bittler. “EA is a challenging discipline and careful attention to the basics can mean the difference between failure and success.”