In preparation for our next EA Forum, I have been doing a lot of reflecting lately about the state of EA and what it means as we move forward into business architecture. And frankly, I don’t like what I am seeing – or more accurately, I don’t like what I am thinking. It seems to me that we are stuck in an outdated – and I will go out on a limb here and say not very successful – paradigm. So what is a paradigm? In this case I am referring to our thinking paradigm – the model in our brains that structures the way we think about EA. Our paradigms represent the “box,” as in thinking inside the box. When we are thinking outside the box, we are essentially trying to create a new paradigm – or thinking model. Paradigms are very powerful. That is why it is so difficult to think out of the box for any extended period of time. Here are the six elements that I see very consistently in the thought patterns of EAs:

Governance – Mechanisms to approve EA designs and enforce adherence to the reference architecture at the project level.

Principles – Decision filters that both EA development and application decisions flow through.

Current state – A snapshot of current issues and technology baseline (often in significant detail).

Reference architecture – The body of work describing EA’s intent, organized in a framework, expressed in strategy, standards, patterns, guidelines, etc.

Target state – An idealized future state viewpoint describing how the organization desires to change the current state based on the current understanding of technology and architecture.

Solutions architecture – Application of principle compliant reference architecture to current problems in order to move the EA closer to the target state viewpoint.

So what’s the problem? We seem to adhere to this model even though it is at best only moderately successful. For example, most EAs have established a governance process, but very few describe it as being impactful. Almost all EA teams have a set of principles, but almost none actually live by them – they are more like a set of good intentions. And who has actually attained a reasonable facsimile of their target state?

But what is really nagging at me is this: Is this the best paradigm for creating a business architecture that business types will appreciate and engage with? Somehow I don’t think so. Now seems like the right time to step out of our boxes and think differently.