Saturday, May 24, 2008

Why Enterprise Architecture is a Joke

Enterprise Architecture is a joke. And I don't say that lightly. My goal isn't to pick fights with enterprise architects - quite the contrary. I've got huge bets on EA - my time - my career - my money. My goal is to improve it.

Anyone who has been in our industry for any period of time has heard the jokes about EA... "EA's are the guys who program in PowerPoint." Despite valiant efforts to mature the discipline by groups like IASA, the OMB, The Open Group, The Zachman Institute as well as individuals like Ambler, the discipline remains fragmented and often unproductive.

In my opinion, there are several reasons why the discipline has not matured more quickly:

1. Zachman pioneered, than stagnated. I believe that the single largest reason that EA is a joke can be linked back to the pioneer. This pains me to say, but many in our industry were patiently waiting for better stuff to come from Zachman and it just didn't happen.

2. Bad Application Architects got promoted to be bad Enterprise Architects. Although this isn't a universal truth, I've witnessed my fair share of it. Those who can't architect do PowerPoint.

3. Silo Organizations promote Silo Funding. Many EA's never had a chance. They live in organizations that fund everything according to business silo's. Then, the EA is expected to bridge the silos with nickle and dime funding. Their inability to perform Herculean change (multi-channel, master data, cross-organizational BPM, master SOA services) has many of them designated as cops with no gun, just a good flashlight.

4. The Tooling Sucks. Modern EA tooling is complete pile of crap. It is designed and written by a generation who is out of touch with the needs of modern I.T. groups.

5. Unconnected Models. Expanding on #4, our models (and tools) do not sufficiently flow from one model to the next. Software development is often explained as a series of model transformations from concept to design to construction, where each stage adds additional fidelity. We currently have a huge hole between EA and the downstream constituents.

Today's enterprise architects have been given the equivalent tooling as programmers in the 1960's. I feel like I'm bashing developers who were handed punch-cards, told to program in assembler and then scolded for their lack of productivity.

The good news is that most EA's are providing significant value despite their handicaps. The great news is that smart people have identified the problem and are actively working on the solution.


Unknown said...

There's a lot of truth in what you say. Many organizations find it hard to change their ways - not to mention the politics that accompany fringe 'executive' roles (like EA). Getting anything done that crosses silo's is like walking through a tar pit.
A lot of stuff written about EA is also beginning to sound like a mix between academics and MBA's. Very little substance, virtually no examples.
On the bright side - the salary is typically higher!

Anonymous said...

Catch up dude! Zachman has done some major innovation and elaboration the past 4-5 years ... in the enterprise framework itself, elaborating it and the other three frameworks, in trainings and certification, and in generally making the entire concept more accessible. Plus there’s a growing body of research coming out of MIT, Gartner, MISQE, and elsewhere that indicates organizations that do EA perform better. Enterprise architecture is no joke Jeff and Zachman has definitely not stagnated either. Check it out at

Best wishes,
Leon A. Kappelman, Ph.D.
Professor of Information Systems
Co-chair, SIM Enterprise Architecture Working Group
Director Emeritus, Information Systems Research Center
Fellow, Texas Center for Digital Knowledge
Information Technology & Decision Sciences Department
College of Business, University of North Texas
Voice: 940-565-4698 Fax: 940-565-4935 Mobile: 940-367-0405

Unknown said...

I'm with you. EA is becoming more and more irrelevant in an IT industry that no longer has 12 months to model everything.

I've written a little on this as well (