For the last four years, Forrester has run a longitudinal study on the “state of EA” — tracking the changes in focus, priorities, etc., since 2008. Our clients use it to get a sense of whether their progress and plans for EA is on par with their peers.

Based on the year-over-year comparison of the data in the upcoming “State of EA: 2013” document, as well as some anecdotal evidence I’m seeing in client interactions, I’ve got five predictions about what I expect to see happen with EA practices this year:

  1. They’re going to kill off the usual EA metrics. They’ll do it even though technically they’re not supposed to (and they may not realize they’re even doing it). Our data shows that standard EA metrics (maturity, perception, value, etc.) are less and less likely to actually be used, even though they’re an extremely popular topic of conversation. A recent experience of mine confirmed that even when trapped in a room for a few hours, not even industry peers can agree on a set of common metrics. Powerful metrics are too company- and initiative-specific to standardize. And in the end, the usual metrics might become irrelevant because . . .
  2. The boss and the boss’s boss will “get” the value of EA. The data suggests that the broader concept of EA as a strategic and business-focused discipline is settling in. Over the past four years, it has become less and less likely that EA is expected to focus on what’s “in the weeds,” and have more involvement at a higher level. Complementing this data is an increasing amount of anecdotal evidence — I’m seeing more VP and C-level roles saying that they need to formalize EA for what we might think of as the right reasons, whereas only a few years ago, they’d be more likely to be clueless and uninvolved. And that’s some good timing, because . . .
  3. Business and information architecture will make significant progress. We’ve seen a lot of interest, but little urgency, in developing and formalizing these architecture disciplines. For the past four years of survey data, both of these disciplines remained the least mature in EA’s suite. But this year, both tied for first as EA’s top priority. Mix that with prediction No. 1 and prediction No. 2, and it looks like EA may have some wiggle room as it tries to prove that these ambiguous domains of architecture are worth it. Though this could be both a blessing and a curse, because . . .
  4. Finding or developing the right person for the job will be the bottleneck. Put it all together: The bigwigs want the broad spectrum of EA value (ASAP, please), which includes the least mature discipline, and someone, somewhere, must be able to pull it off . . . while showing value and without any relevant metrics. Whether EA is just kicking off or is now growing into this role, many practice leaders will find themselves playing the role of HR, and many will find themselves playing it unsuccessfully. Especially in regards to business and information architecture, the right mix of skills is rare and can be expensive. Finding, developing, and designing enterprise architecture skillsets will become the most popular “soft” topic, taking the place of “marketing EA to executives.” This has greater implications as well, because . . .
  5. EA leaders are going to rethink their org and operating models. If they haven’t already, that is. Many EA practices are in a bit of a midlife crisis as they try to apply all of the architecture lenses to enterprise planning and delivery. Combine that with the dearth of appropriate skills, higher expectations for EA’s value, the demand for business/information architecture, and the likelihood that EA’s headcount will remain low . . . and something’s gotta give. EA practices will formalize how they align their architects to stakeholder groups, will rewrite the scope of the architects’ responsibilities, and will draw clearer boundaries around when, how, and who gets involved.

More of the data and deeper discussion of trends will be available in February 2013’s “State of EA: 2013” report. But for the time being, you tell me: Have I jumped the gun with these predictions? Do execs both “get” and value EA, or do they still not care? Can you truly operate without a standard set of metrics? And are the skills for the job more readily available than I think?