It will likely come as no surprise that, like so many things in business IT, the COVID-19 pandemic has reshaped the enterprise architecture function within most organizations. According to Forrester’s “Q1 2022 Global State of Enterprise Architecture Survey,” EAs are focused on technology strategy rather than influencing business strategy or just delivering projects. These changes are a reversal of EA positioning pre-pandemic.
“The message is clear: To succeed, EA leaders must adapt their EA discipline to meet the needs of their organization,” the report said. “Let your stakeholders determine the EA value proposition.” By not putting the concerns of their organizations first, too many EA leaders position their practices inappropriately, the survey said. For example, after a Canadian government agency determined where their IT should be focusing, the head of EA was better able to understand stakeholder challenges and identify the EA services that would be the most valuable.
“You may work for an organization that is very strategic thinking or you may be working for a…project driven organization. If your organization is a project-driven organization, they want EA to help them to deliver their projects. So there’s no logic in EA trying to be a strategic EA if that’s not how your organization thinks. They will think you are working on things that are not relevant to them,” said Forrester analyst and report co-author Gordon Barnett in a webinar about the survey.
Between 2021 and 2022, business strategy archetypes decreased from 15% to 7%, and business-projects-focused EA decreased from 28% to 14%, the survey found. At the same time the technology strategy archetype increased from 42% to 67%.
“If you think of what’s happened with the pandemic and people remote working and supply chain changes, it’s not surprising that there was more focus on technology,” said Barnett. “It doesn’t mean that’s the long term but that’s where we are today.”
EA Is Changing Rapidly
To be successful today, EA leaders should co-create services with the people who will have a stake in the outcomes. EA leaders appear to be heeding this advice. According to the survey, between 2020 and 2022, EA leaders reported increasing collaboration with business strategists, business intelligence pros, and line-of-business leaders.
Specifically, the top 5 business and technology functions EA teams increased collaboration with were:
- Business strategy – 79% (up from 44% in 2020)
- Data governance % BI – 67% (up from 45% in 2020)
- Portfolio management office – 65% (up from 29% in 2020)
- IT ops – 64% (up from 30% in 2020)
- Office of the CTO – 64% (up from 30% in 2020)
For example, EA architects at a large U.S. retailer helped business leaders build their own reports by giving them access to data typically used by the EA team for this purpose. By giving the business the power to build its own reporting, the EA team was able to spend more time on role-specific activities and less on data capture and entry.
Taking collaboration a step further, many EA leaders today are giving up on architecture review boards. Instead, they are taking on a more consultative role, providing insights, recommendations, impact analysis, and business
cases as needed. Governance and business leaders then make the final choices on how to proceed.
“The architecture review board is pretty much dead,” said Barnett. “People are moving towards trusted governance; a more effective governance that enables people to move at speed.”
Changing Where They Focus
EA teams should focus on a single area of activity—business strategy, business projects, technology strategy, and/or technology projects—while keeping an eye on the others, the survey said. Otherwise, EA leaders may struggle to find success if they try to be all things to all people. Successful EA teams mature a single area of activity before they move on to another.
“It’s not that you spend 100% in 1 quadrant, you spend primarily 60% of your time in 1 of these quadrants and split the others. It’s very rare you do all of them,” said Barnett.
The Tech EAs Are Focusing On
Although not included in the report, Barnett said in the webinar that the top 5 technologies EAs are focused on include:
- Intelligent automation – 82%
- Cybersecurity and privacy – 81%
- GRC – 79%
- Application architecture – 78%
- Digital business platforms – 76%
“I don’t think there’s any surprise that the top 2 are intelligent automation and cybersecurity. I think everybody’s quite aware of those,” he said. “When it comes to governance, risk, and compliance, what you’re going to find is that a lot of that has to do with sustainability.”