As all the hype around business architecture increases, a lot of clients are asking about EA’s relevance to the business. One newly minted EA put it this way: “I get the distinct impression that the business side of EA gets at best lip service. It’s no wonder business leaders criticize architects for being IT centric rather than business driven. But doesn’t the “E” mean enterprise?”

Architects ARE guilty of being IT centric, but that is changing. In our defense we have come by this bias legitimately:

• From the very beginning (see Zachman’s first article: EA clearly included a business component. But until recently the concept of business architecture was: “what IT needs to know about the business.” So in theory EA is about the enterprise but in practice has been very technology centric.

• Because EA was originally designed by technologists for technologists EA has grown up in IT further contributing to the idea that it is about technology.

• Because it has grown up in IT, EA practitioners are almost all technologists who are very comfortable in the technology space but not so comfortable in the business space. In fact, architects are often their own worst enemy when it comes to the business. They spend very little time with business leaders (outside of a specific project context) and spend even less time educating themselves about business (see my April 21st, 2009 blog post).

• Architects are taught that EA is fundamentally an engineering exercise but businesses are growing, evolving, mutating, complex systems. The traditional engineering model of EA doesn’t translate well to the business.

So what should architects be doing to create a more business driven architecture?

• Learn how to apply EA concepts in the business space including how to work with business tools that support BA such as capability maps, value chains, operating models, value streams, and business models. Currently BA is in a state of hyper-innovation. There are no rules, no best practices, and few big success stories so we all have a lot to learn here.

• Encourage the EA team, CIOs, and other IT executives to see IT as a business unit itself; creating demand management processes, product and service portfolios, and a business model of their own. The best way to understand the business world “out there” is to first understand the business “in here.”

• Spend more time with business professionals to really understand their needs. EAs have a good understanding of what IT needs from them but now we need to understand what the business needs from us.