PODCAST: Examining the state of EA and findings of recent survey

By Dana Gardner, Interabor Solutions

Listen to this recorded podcast here: BriefingsDirect-Panel of Architecture Experts Analyze EA Survey Data

The following is the transcript of a sponsored podcast panel discussion on the findings from a study on the current state and future direction of enterprise architecture from The Open Group Conference, San Diego 2011.

Dana Gardner: Hi, this is Dana Gardner, Principal Analyst at Interarbor Solutions, and you’re listening to BriefingsDirect.

Today, we present a sponsored podcast discussion in conjunction with The Open Group Conference, held in San Diego in the week of February 7, 2011. We’ve assembled a panel to examine the current state of enterprise architecture (EA) and analyze some new findings on this subject from a recently completed Infosys annual survey.

We’ll see how the architects themselves are defining the EA team concept, how enterprise architects are dealing with impact and engagement in their enterprises, and the latest definitions of EA deliverables and objectives. [Disclosure: The Open Group is a sponsor of BriefingsDirect podcasts.]

We’ll also look at where the latest trends around hot topics like cloud and mobile are pushing the enterprise architects towards a new future. Here with us to delve into the current state of EA and the survey results, is Len Fehskens, Vice President of Skills and Capabilities at The Open Group. Welcome, Len.

Len Fehskens: Thanks, Dana.

Gardner: Nick Hill, Principal Enterprise Architect at Infosys Technologies. Welcome.

Nick Hill: Thank you very much.

Gardner: Dave Hornford, Architecture Practice Principal at Integritas, as well as Chair of The Open Group’s Architecture Forum. Welcome, Dave.

Dave Hornford: Welcome. Thanks for being here.

Gardner: Chris Forde, Vice President of Enterprise Architecture and Membership Capabilities for The Open Group.

Chris Forde: Good morning.

Gardner: We have a large group here today. We’re also joined by Andrew Guitarte. He is the Enterprise Business Architect of Internet Services at Wells Fargo Bank. Welcome.

Andrew Guitarte: Thank you very much.

Gardner: And, Ahmed Fattah. He is the Executive IT Architect in the Financial Services Sector for IBM, Australia. Welcome.

Ahmed Fattah: Thank you, Dana.

Gardner: Nick Hill, let’s go to you first. You’ve conducted an annual survey. You just put together your latest results. You asked enterprise architects what’s going on in the business. What are the takeaways? What jumped out at you this year?

Hot topics

Hill: There are several major takeaways. There were some things that were different about this year’s survey. One, we introduced the notion of hot topics. So, we had some questions around cloud computing. And, we took a more forward-looking view in terms of not so much what has been transpiring with enterprise architectures since the last survey, but what are they looking to go forward to in terms of their endeavors. And, as we have been going through economic turmoil over the past 2-3 years, we asked some questions about that.

We did notice that in terms of the team makeup, a lot of the sort of the constituents of the EA group are pretty much still the same, hailing from largely the IT core enterprise group. We looked at the engagement and impacts that they have had on their organizations and, as well, whether they have been able to establish the value that we’ve noticed that enterprise architects have been trying to accomplish over the past 3-4 years.

This was our fifth annual survey, which was started by Sohel Aziz. We did try to do some comparative results from previous surveys and we found that some of things were the same, but there are some things that are shifting in terms of EA.

More and more, the business is taking hold of the value that enterprise architects bring to the table, enterprise architects have been able to survive the economic troubled times, and some companies have even increased their investment in EA. But, there was a wide range of topics, and I’m sure that we’ll get to more of those as this discussion goes on.

Gardner: One of the things that you looked at was the EA team. Are we defining who these people are differently? Has that been shifting over the past few years?

Hill: Essentially, no. If you took a look at this year’s survey compared to 2007-2008 surveys, largely they’ve come from core IT with some increase from the business side, business architects and some increase in project managers. The leader of the EA group is still reporting through the IT chain either to the CIO or the CTO.

Gardner: Dave Hornford.

Hornford: Are you seeing that the leader of the architecture team is an architect or manager? The reason I’m asking is that we’re seeing an increasing shift in our client base to not having an architect lead the architecture team?

Hill: Well, that was very interesting. We didn’t exactly point to that kind of a determination. We wanted to see who they actually reported into. That would help us get some indication of how well they would be able to sell their value within the enterprise, if you’re largely aligned more with the IT or more with the business side functions.

Gardner: Chris Forde, you’ve been observing a lot of these issues, is this a particularly dynamic time, or is this a time where things are settling out? Is there any way to characterize the way in which the enterprise architect occupation or professional definition is involved with the organization? Where are we on this?

Forde: Actually, I’ll defer commentary on the professional aspect of things to my colleague Len. In terms of the dynamics of EA, we’re constantly trying to justify why enterprise architects should exist in any organization. That’s actually no different than most other positions are being reviewed on an ongoing basis, because of what the value proposition is for the organization.

Certifying architects

What I’m seeing in Asia is that a number of academic organizations, universities, are looking for an opportunity to certify enterprise architects, and a number of organizations are initiating, still through the IT organization but at a very high CIO-, CTO-level, the value proposition of an architected approach to business problems.

What I’m seeing in Asia is an increasing recognition of the need for EA, but also a continuing question of, “If we’re going to do this, what’s the value proposition,” which I think is just a reasonable conversation to have on a day- to-day basis anyway.

Gardner: So, Chris is pointing to the fact that business transformation is an undercurrent to all these things in many different occupations, and processes

and categories of workforce and even workflow are being reevaluated. Len, how is the EA job or function playing into that? Is this now an opportunity for it to start to become more of a business transformation occupation?

Fehskens: When you compare EA with all the other disciplines that make up a modern enterprise, it’s the new kid on the block. EA, as a discipline, is maybe 20 years old, depending on what you count as the formative event, whereas most of the other disciplines that are part of the modern enterprise at least hundreds of years old.

So, this is both a real challenge and a real opportunity. The other functions have a pretty good understanding of what their business case is They’ve been around for a long time, and the case that they can make is pretty familiar. Mostly they just have to argue in terms of more efficient or more effective delivery of their results.

For EA, the value proposition pretty much has to be reconstructed from whole cloth, because it didn’t really exist, and the value of the function is still not that well understood throughout most of the business.

So, this is an opportunity as well as a challenge, because it forces the maturing of the discipline, unlike some of these older disciplines who had decades to figure out what it was that we’re really doing. We have maybe a few years to figure out what it is we’re really doing and what we’re really contributing, and that helps a lot to accelerate the maturing of the discipline.

I don’t think we’re there completely yet, but I think EA, when it’s well done, people do see the value. When it’s not well done, it falls by the side of the road, which is to be expected. There’s going to be a lot of that, because of the relative use of the discipline, but we’ll get to the point where these other functions have and probably a lot faster than they did.

Gardner: So this is a work in progress, but that comes at a time when the organization is in transition. So, that might be a good match up. Nick, back to the survey. It seems, from my reading of it, that business strategy objectives are being given more to EA, perhaps because there is no one else in that über position to grab on to that and do something.

Hill: I think that’s very much the case. The caveat there is that it’s not necessarily an ownership. It’s a matter of participation and being able to weigh in on the business transformations that are happening and how EA can be instrumental in making those transformations successful.

Follow through

Now, given that, the idea is that it’s been more at a strategic level, and once that strategy is defined and you put that into play within an enterprise the idea is how does the enterprise architect really follow-through with that, if they are more focused on just the strategy not necessarily the implementation of that. That’s a big part of the challenge for enterprise architects — to understand how they percolate downwards the standards, the discipline of architecture that needs to be present within an organization to enable that strategy in transformation.

Gardner: Len.

Fehskens: One of the things that I am seeing is an idea taking hold within the architecture community that architecture is really about making the connection between strategy and execution.

If you look at the business literature, that problem is one that’s been around for a long time. A lot of organizations evolved really good strategies and then failed in the execution, with people banging their heads against the wall, trying to figure out, “We had such a great strategy. Why couldn’t we really implement it?”

I don’t know that anybody has actually done a study yet, but I would strongly suspect that, if they did, one of the things that they would discover was there wasn’t something that played the role of an architecture in making the connection between strategy and execution.

I see this is another great opportunity for architects, if we can express this idea in language that the businesspeople understand, and strategy to execution is language that businesspeople understand, and we can show them how architecture facilitates that connection. There is a great opportunity for a win-win situation for both the business and the architecture community.

Gardner: Chris.

Forde: I just wanted to follow the two points that are right here, and say that the strategy to execution problem space is not at all peculiar to IT architects or enterprise architects. It’s a fundamental business problem. Companies that are good at translating that bridge are extremely effective and it’s the role of architects in that, that’s the important thing, we have to have the place at the table.

But, to imagine that the enterprise architects are solely responsible for driving execution of a strategy in an organization is a fallacy, in my opinion. The need is to ensure that the team of people that are engaged in setting the strategy and executing on it are compelling enough to drive that through the organization. That is a management and an executive problem, a middle management problem, and then driving down to the delivery side. It’s not peculiar to EA at all in my opinion.

Gardner: Andrew at Wells Fargo Bank, you wear a number of hats outside of your organization that I think cross some of these boundaries. The idea of the enterprise architect or a business architect, where do you see this development of the occupation going, the category going, and what about this division between strategy and execution?

Guitarte: I may not speak for the bank itself, but from my experience of talking with people from the grassroots to the executive level, I have seen one very common observation, enterprise architects are caught off-guard, and the reason there is that there is this new paradigm. In fact, there is a shift in paradigm that business architecture is the new EA, and I am going out beyond my peers here in terms of predicting the future.

Creating a handbook

That is going to be the future. I am the founding chairman of the Business Architecture Society. Today, I am an advisory member of the Business Architecture Guild. We’re writing, or even rewriting, the textbooks on EA. We’re creating a handbook for business architects. What my peers have mentioned is that they are bridging the strategy and tactical demands and are producing the value that business has been asking for.

Gardner: Okay, we also see from the survey that process flexibility, and standardization seems to be a big topic. Again, they’re looking to the architects in the organization to try to bridge that, to move above and beyond IT and applications into process, standardization, and automation across the organization.

Ahmed, where do you see that going, and how do you think the architect can play a role in furthering this goal of process flexibility and standardization?

Fattah: The way I see the market is consistent with the results of the survey in that they see the emergence of the enterprise architect as business architect to work on a much wider space and make you focus more on the business. There are a number of catalysts for that. One of them is a business process, the rise of the business process management, as a very important discipline within the organization.

That, in a way, had some roots from Six Sigma, which was really a purely business aspect, but also from service oriented architecture (SOA), which has itself now developed into business process, decomposition and implementation.

That gives very good ammunition and support for the strategic decomposition of the whole enterprise as components that, with business process, is actually connecting elements between this. The business process architect is participating as a business architect using this business process as a major aspect for enabling business transformation.

I’m very encouraged with this development of business architecture. By the way, another catalyst now is a cloud. The cloud will actually purify or modify EA, because all the technical details maybe actually outsourced to the cloud provider, where the essence of what IT will support in the organization becomes the business process.

On one hand, I’m encouraged with the result of the survey and what I’ve seen in the organization, but on the other hand, I am disappointed that EA hasn’t developed these economic and business bases yet. I agree with Len that 20 years is a short time. On the other hand, it’s a long time for not applying this discipline in a consistent way. We’ll get much more penetration, especially with large organization, commercial organization, and not the academic side.

Gardner: So, if we look at that potential drop between the strategy and the execution, someone dropping the ball in that transition, what Ahmed is saying that cloud computing could come in whereby your strategy could be defined, your processes could be engineered, and then the tactical implementation of those could be handed off to the cloud providers. Is that a possible scenario from where you sit, Dave?

Hornford: I think it’s a possible scenario. I think more driving from it is the ability to highlight the process or business service requirements and not tie them to legacy investments that are not decomposed into a cloud. Where you have a separation to a cloud, you’re required to have the ability to improve your execution. The barriers in execution in our current world are very closely tied to our legacy investments in software asset with physical asset which are very closely tied to our organizational structure.

Gardner: How about you, Chris Forde, do you see some goodness or risk in ameliorating the issue of handing off strategy to a cloud provider?

Abdicating responsibility

Forde: Any organization that hands over strategic planning or execution activity to a third-party is abdicating its own responsibility to shareholders, as they are a profit-making organizations. So I would not advocate that position at all.

Hornford: You can’t outsource thinking?

Forde: Well, you can, but then you give up control, and that’s not a good situation. You need to be in control of your own destiny. In terms of what Ahmed was talking about, you need to be very careful as you engage with the third-party that they are actually going to implement your strategic intent.

You need to have a really strong idea of what it is you want from the provider, articulating clearly, and set up a structure that allows you to manage and operate that with their strength in the game. If you just simply abdicate that responsibility and assume that that’s going to happen, it’s likely to fail.

Gardner: So there probably be clearly be instances where handing off responsibility at some level will make sense and won’t make sense, but who better than the enterprise architect to make that determination? Ahmed.

Fattah: I agree, on one hand, the organization shouldn’t abdicate the core function of the businesses in defining a strategy and then executing it right.

However, an example, which I’m seeing as a trend, but a very slow trend — outsourcing architecture itself to other organizations. We have one example in Australia of a very large organization, which gives IBM the project execution, the delivery organization. Part of that was architecture. I was part of this to define with the organization their enterprise architecture, the demarcation between what they outsource and what they retain.

Definitely, they have to retain certain important parts, which is strategy and high-level, but outsourcing is a catalyst to be able to define what’s the value of this architecture. So the number of architectures within our software organization was looked with a greater scrutiny. They are monitoring the value of this delivery, and value was demonstrated. So the team actually grew; not shrunk.

Forde: In terms of outsourcing knowledge skills and experience in an architecture, this is a wave of activity that’s going to be coming. My point wasn’t that it wasn’t a valid way to go, but you have to be very careful about how you approach it.

My experience out of the Indian subcontinent has been that having a bunch of people labeled as architects is different than having a bunch of people that have the knowledge, skills, and experience to deliver what is expected. But in that region, and in Asia and China in particular, what I’m seeing is a recognition that there is a market there. In North America and in Europe, there is a gap of people with these skills and experience. And folks who are entrepreneurial in their outlook in Asia are certainly looking to fill that gap.

So, Ahmed’s model is one that can work well, and will be a burgeoning model over the next few years. You’ve to build the skill base first.

Gardner: Thank you, Chris Forde. Andrew, you had something?

Why the shift?

Guitarte: There’s no disagreement about what’s happening today, but I think the most important question is to ask why there is this shift. As Nick was saying, there is a shift of focus, and outsourcing is a symptom of that shift.

If you look back, Dave mentioned that in any organization there are two forces that tried to control the structure. One is the techno structure, which EA belongs to, and the main goal of a techno structure is to perpetrate themselves in power, to put it bluntly. Then, there is the other side, which is the shareholders, who want to maximize profit, and you’ve seen that cycle go back and forth.

Today, unfortunately, it’s the shareholders who are winning. Outsourcing for them is a way to manage cash flow, to control costs, and unfortunately, we’re getting hit.

Gardner: Nick, going back to the survey. When you asked about some of these hot trends — cloud, outsourcing, mobile, the impact — did anything jump out at you that might add more to our discussion around this shifting role and this demarcation between on-premises and outsource?

Hill: Absolutely. The whole concept of leveraging the external resources for computing capabilities is something we drove at. We did find the purpose behind that, and it largely plays into our conversation behind the impact of business. It’s more of a cost reduction play.

That’s what our survey respondents replied to and said the reason why the organization was interested in cloud was to reduce cost. It’s a very interesting concept, when you’re looking at why the business sees it as a cost play, as opposed to a revenue-generating, profit-making endeavor. It causes some need for balance there.

Gardner: So cutting cost, but at what price, Len?

Fehskens: The most interesting thing for me about cloud is that it replays a number of scenarios that we’ve seen happen over and over and over and over again. It’s almost always the case that the initial driver for the business to get interested in something is to reduce cost. But, eventually, you squeeze all the water out of that stone and you have to start looking at some other reason to keep moving in that direction, keep exploiting that opportunity.

That almost invariably is added value. What’s happening with cloud is that it’s forcing people to look at a lot of the issues that they started to address with SOA. But, the problem with SOA was that a lot of vendors managed to turn it into a technology issue. “Buy this product and you’ll have SOA,” which distracted people from thinking about the real issue here, which is figuring out what are the services that the business needs.

Once you understand what the services are that the business needs, then you can go and look for the lowest-cost provider out in the cloud to make that connection. But, once you’ve already made that disconnection between the services that the business needs and how they are provided, you can then start orchestrating the services on the business side from a strategically driven perspective to look at the opportunities to create added value.

You can assemble the implementation that delivers that added value from resources that are already out there that you don’t have to rely on your in-house organization to create it from scratch. So, there’s a huge opportunity here, but it’s accompanied by an enormous risk. If you get this right, you’re going to win big. But if you get it wrong, you are going to lose big.

Gardner: Ahmed, you had some thoughts?

Cloud has focus

Fattah: When we use the term, cloud, like many other terms, we refer to so many different things, and the cloud definitely has a focus. I agree that the focus now on reducing cost. However, when you look at the cloud as providing pure business service such as software as a service (SaaS), but also business process orchestrated services with perhaps outsourcing business process itself, it has a huge potential to create this mindset for organization about what they are doing and in which part they have to minimize cost. That’s where the service is a differentiator. They have to own it. They have to invest so much of it. And, they have to use the best around.

Definitely the cloud will play in different levels, but these levels where it will work in a business architecture is actually distilling the enterprise architecture into the essence of it, which is understanding what service do I need, how I sort the services, and how I integrate them together to achieve the value.

Gardner: So, the stakes are rather high. We have an opportunity where things could be very much more productive, and I’ll use that term rather than just cost savings, but we also have the

risk of some sort of disintermediation, dropping the ball, and handing off the strategic initiatives to the tactical implementation and/or losing control of your organization.

So, the question is, Dave Hornford, isn’t the enterprise architect in a catbird seat, in a real strong position to help determine the success or failure on this particular point?

Hornford: Yes, that gets to our first point, which was execution. We’ve talked in this group about the business struggle to execute. We also have to consider the ability of an enterprise architecture team to execute.

When we look at an organization that has historically come from and been very technically focused in enterprise IT, the struggle there, as Andrew said, is that it’s a self-perpetuating motion.

I keep running into architecture teams that talk about making sure that IT has a seat at the table. It’s a failure model, as opposed to going down the path that Len and Ahmed were talking about. That’s identifying the services that the business needs, so that they can be effectively assembled, whether that assembly is inside the company, partly with a outsource provider, or is assembled as someone else doing the work.

That gets back to that core focus of the sub-discipline that is evolving at an even faster rate than enterprise architecture. That’s business architecture. We’re 20 years into EA, but you can look at business literature going back a much broader period, talking about the difficulty of executing as a business.

This problem is not new. It’s a new player in it who has the capability to provide good advice, and the core of that I see for execution is an architecture team recognizing that they are advice providers, not doers, and they need to provide advice to a leadership team who can execute.

Gardner: Anyone else want to add to this issue of the role and importance of architect, be it business or be it information or IT, and this interesting catalyst position we are in between on- premises and outsource?

Varying maturity

Forde: I have a comment to make. It’s interesting listening to Dave’s comments. What we have to gauge here is that the state of EA varies in maturity from industry to industry and organization to organization.

For the function to be saying “I need a place at the table” is an indication of a maturity level inside an organization. If we’re going to say that an EA team that is looking for a place at the table is in a position to strategically advise the executives on what to do in an outsourcing agreement, that’s a recipe for disaster.

However, if you’re already in the position of being a trusted adviser within the organization, then it’s a very powerful position. It reflects the model that you just described, Dana.

Organizations and the enterprise architecture team at the business units need to be reflecting on where they are and how they can play in the model that Ahmed and Dave are talking about. There is no one-size-fits-all here from an EA perspective, I think it really varies from organization to organization.

Gardner: Nick, from the survey, was there any data and information that would lead you to have some insight into where these individuals need to go in order to accommodate, as Chris was saying, what they need to do from a self-starting situation to be able to rise to these issues even as these issues of course are variable from company to company?

Hill: One of the major focus areas that we found is that, when we talk about business architecture, the reality is that there’s a host of new technologies that have emerged with Web 2.0 and are emerging in grid computing, cloud computing, and those types of things that surely are alluring to the business. The challenge for the enterprise architecture is to take a look at what those legacy systems that are already invested in in-house and how an organization is going to transition that legacy environment to the new computing paradigms, do that efficiently, and at the same time be able to hit the business goals and objectives.

It’s a conundrum that the enterprise architects have to deal with, because there is a host of legacy investment that is there. In Infosys, we’ve seen a large uptake in the amount of modernization and rationalization of portfolios going on with our clientele.

That’s an important indicator that there is this transition happening and the enterprise architects are right in the middle of that, trying to coach and counsel the business leadership and, at the same time, provide the discipline that needs to happen on each and every project, and not just the very large projects or transformation initiatives that organizations are going through.

The key point here is that the enterprise architects are in the middle of this game. They are very instrumental in bringing these two worlds together, and the idea that they need to have more of a business acumen, business savvy, to understand how those things are affecting the business community, is going to be critical.

Gardner: Very good. We’re going to have to leave it there. I do want to thank you, Nick, for sharing the information from your Infosys Technologies survey and its result. So, thank you to Nick Hill, the Principal Enterprise Architect at Infosys Technologies.

I’d also like to thank our other members of our panel today. Len Fehskens, the Vice President of Skills and Capabilities at The Open Group. Thank you.

Fehskens: Thanks for the opportunity. It was a very interesting discussion.

Gardner: And Dave Hornford, the Architecture Practice Principal at Integritas. Thank you.

Hornford: Thank you very much, Dana, and everyone else.

Gardner: And Chris Forde, Vice President of Enterprise Architecture and Membership Capabilities at The Open Group. Thank you.

Forde: My pleasure. Thanks, Dana.

Gardner: And of course, we’ve also been joined by Andrew Guitarte. He is the Enterprise Business Architect of Internet Services at Wells Fargo Bank. Thank you.

Guitarte: My pleasure.

Gardner: And lastly, Ahmed Fattah. He is the Executive IT Architect in the Financial Services Sector for IBM, Australia.

Fattah: Thank you, Dana.

Gardner: And I want to thank our listeners who have been enjoying a sponsored podcast discussion in conjunction with The Open Group Conference here in San Diego, the week of February 7, 2011. I’m Dana Gardner, Principal Analyst at Interarbor Solutions. Thanks for joining and come back next time.

Copyright The Open Group and Interarbor Solutions, LLC, 2005-2011. All rights reserved.

Dana Gardner is the Principal Analyst at Interarbor Solutions, which identifies and interprets the trends in Services-Oriented Architecture (SOA) and enterprise software infrastructure markets. Interarbor Solutions creates in-depth Web content and distributes it via BriefingsDirectblogs, podcasts and video-podcasts to support conversational education about SOA, software infrastructure, Enterprise 2.0, and application development and deployment strategies.

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