Tuesday, 7 September 2010

Why Enterprise Architecture Doesn't Work

I really think Enterprise Architecture does not work. First of all, I have never seen a working example. All Enterprise Architecture Departments I know (a lot!) are very good at generating enormous amounts of paper, but generally not so good on achieving results. The added value of the architecture function is marginal.

Let me give you one example, at a large bank in the Netherlands, where the EA team consists of about 40 (sic!) architects. Just a few months ago they presented the latest version of the Enterprise Architecture to the management that's supposed to be responsible for implementing it. The presentation consisted of over 100 slides, the architecture documents ranged up to 400 pages. Guess what? The majority of the management dropped the handouts (classified material) in the paper bins when they got back at the office. Back to business.

There are several reasons why I think EA does not work:
  • architecture is a means to an end. Architecture provides steering and control information, but is not in control!
  • enterprise architecture generally takes up too much time. Companies are in need of fast turnarounds, quick solutions. No time to spend 9 to 12 months creating a baseline architecture.
  • trying to fit an entire organization (depending on size ofc) within one single framework is often too much asked. It is possible to define one for smaller companies (say up to 1000 employees), but are we still talking about enterprise architecture then?
  • enterprise wide scope of activities are usually doomed to fail, due to scope, size and consequences, but often due to distance between daily operations and the project itself
  • EA often becomes a goal, instead of a means, especially when the teams get over 3 architects

I really think we - as architects - should be a bit more humble. We are a supporting function for the business, helping them decide what course to take and how to implement that course. Giving guidance on what works best, in practice, not on paper. Aiming for solutions that we can implement this year, not within the next five years.

I prefer to use what I call JITJEA: Just In Time, Just Enough Architecture. Yea, very original, I know. Call it Agile Architecture, where you spend very little time on the big picture, and only work out the parts you are going to need in the next couple of months. Combine this with the notion of emerging architectures, where you - as the lead architect - function as a catalyst to let the architecture emerge, and you have a recipe for an active, innovative, involved and loyal community, organization-wide! They will carry the torch where you can't or shouldn't. The architecture that emerges will be supported by many more people then you ever could've hired to staff your enterprise architecture group.