Build A High-Performance EA Practice

Gene Leganza
Vice President, Research Director
July 19, 2012

As the pace of change continues to accelerate in an increasingly complex business environment, organizations need to thoroughly understand how their business operates and plan the technology-fueled business transformation they'll need in the future. Establishing this understanding and enabling the transition to the future state have always been the concerns of enterprise architecture programs, and EA has emerged as a critical practice for managing an enterprise's evolution.

But EA programs have existed for more than a decade, and most of them have fallen short of these lofty goals. Why? Old-school EA has been too tactical, too technology-centric, or too disengaged from business priorities to have significant impact. Enterprises need a high-performance approach to EA that is laser-focused on driving business outcomes. To plan their future, organizations have the following alternatives:

  • Try to get there without a formal EA program.Enterprises that have yet to initiate an EA program — or have abandoned their effort — are operating without a coherent plan to evolve toward a clearly articulated future state. The lack of an EA program may not derail business as usual, but business change is likely to occur in a siloed, uncoordinated fashion.
  • Stick with the status quo EA program.Highly skilled and knowledgeable architects typically staff EA programs. But resources are typically focused on project-level activities. Strategy work is likely to be about technology road maps — not business capabilities. Isolating technology planning from business planning maintains the old-school, arms-length relationship between IT and the business.
  •  Build a high-performance EA program. Businesses have begun to marry top-down planning — which defines strategy-critical capabilities — to agile processes, which incorporate feedback loops that keep the approach responsive to ongoing change. They have accomplished this with high-performance EA programs that connect the dots between business and technology planning.

The EA program must become the connective layer between technology and business that guides planning, decision-making, innovation, and governance activities. In the high-performance EA program:

  • Business architects works with business thought leaders to distill strategies.Leveraging input from executives and business subject matter experts (SMEs), the high-performing EA practice generates a target state of the business that achieves its strategic objectives, and a transformation road map that builds the business capabilities the enterprise needs.
  • Business and IT architects work collaboratively to set tech strategy.EA works with IT leaders to set a strategy that leverages both new tech innovations and existing capabilities that will enable the business to achieve the target state.
  • Architects govern portfolio decisions to enable the business architecture vision.Business architects monitor the project portfolio, while IT architects govern technology solutions, leveraging reference architectures to build the future state in alignment with strategic road maps.

While staying true to the classic EA goals of a long-term focus and cross-silo, enterprisewide perspective, Forrester's EA Practice Playbook, our programmatic framework to take you from starting your practice to ensuring its ongoing contributions to the business, provides the flexibility to accommodate varying levels of resource commitment and the political, historical, and cultural obstacles that EA programs often face. Start with our Executive Overview, which will be your guide to the various modules in the playbook.

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