Opening Thoughts Value of EA: The Elusive Quest
Nothing haunts the Enterprise Architecture discipline more than the elusive quest to define the business value of EA. Sought by first-time practitioners—and by established EA professionals responding to executive demand for quantifiable value—every enterprise architect must eventually face this daunting challenge.
As evidence, the most recent A&G EA survey reveals that 80 percent of survey respondents report that they do not have a quantifiable way to determine the value of their EA programs. While that number is not particularly surprising to those struggling with the challenge, it is interesting to note that 20 percent believe they do. What are those 20 percent doing that the others are not? The likely explanation is that they have developed better approaches to address the question to the satisfaction of their inquisitors.
Since one-size-fits-all approaches do not work, it is helpful to have a rich portfolio of approaches attuned to differing situations. These range from head-on attempts at analytics to persuasive arguments appealing to logic and common sense. Authors in this issue of A&G each offer their contributions to such a portfolio. Jeff Tash, in What’s the Value of EA, begins his argument by turning the value question on its ear, asking instead, about the cost of NOT doing EA. By exploring what happens without EA, he offers suggestions on how to achieve a viable EA return on investment.
In Realizing the Business Value of Enterprise Architecture, Dr. Fred Collins observes that most organizations have trouble demonstrating value. Upon examination, he usually discovers that they have abundant, yet disjointed, artifacts of past EA-related work. His upbeat message is that it is possible to quickly derive real value by integrating existing information sources. Similarly, Tim Westbrock describes portfolio evaluation approaches designed to extract tactical EA value while maintaining a strategic focus in Keeping Both Sides Happy.
When musing on the EA value question, I have gone so far as to speculate that there is no definitive answer and that it will forever be so. Do I really believe that? I am not sure. My hope is, as in any relatively new discipline, that experience, cumulative data and analytic minds will eventually yield an easy-to-use, accurate, generalized value formula. In the meantime, I find it helpful to focus on one particular value imperative: value lies uniquely in the eye of the beholder. Specifically, it is important to know your audience. Art Caston’s CIO Expectations from an EA Practice describes how an EA practice contributes to the goals of the CIO, most often the primary executive supporter of EA. He concludes that the ultimate goal for EA is facilitating enterprise transformation.
Delivering enterprise transformation is the ultimate business value of EA. In the absence of a definitive approach to demonstrate EA’s contribution, look to the portfolio to choose approaches that will work in specific situations. Then, instead of debating the value of EA, practitioners can invest their time in doing the vital work of Enterprise Architecture.
by George Paras, Editor-in-Chief, Architecture & Governance