EA In 2014: Strategist, Or Back To Basics?
Earlier this year, I published a blog and report outlining five predictions for EA practices in 2013 based on trends I analyzed in Forrester's annual state of EA survey. This year's state of EA survey is now accepting responses for 2014, for those who would like to participate. But I have a feeling this year's data will be less optimistic than last year's.
The data for 2013 showed an EA practice roaring to help their business set their business technology strategy, become more agile, and achieve their transformations successfully. And anecdotally, this is where our EA clients felt they were ready to go. Furthermore, their bosses were giving them full support, and the business was willing to give it a try. It all sounded perfect, and I was optimistic.
But I'm starting to see a disturbing trend in my calls and engagements. Yes — EA went out there, did the job, engaged the business, got a project, drew some pictures, maybe made a proposal for enterprise investment. But many will not be coming back a second time to welcoming arms. And here's why:
- The language of EA was obviously made for and by architects. Not for businesspeople. Your business stakeholders report being confused (and in some cases, outright angry) at the language EA is bringing into conversations. Many feel forced to adopt technical language in what amounts to a business conversation. And that just doesn't feel right to them, so they won't do it again. Put a coin in a jar every time you have to teach your business a new EA word. By the time it's half full, you may need what's in there.
- New architects are giving EA a bad name. Nobody likes when the person they work with insists on showing off their brilliance at every turn. Your business comprises people who feel that way about architects and other IT roles, whether it's true or not. Only when relationship management closes individual architects' shortcomings, or when a seasoned EA knows when to bite their tongue, do you see architecture embraced in the business. New architects, especially, need some soft skills training as they go from being a highly respected pro in IT to a person with no credibility in the business.
- Business stakeholders aren't buying EA's description of their business. Many enterprise architects go off in isolation and come back describing their business and its processes according to the methods of an architect. Even if done accurately and carefully, small errors confirm to the business that EA doesn't understand them. It's a classic case of needing experience to gain experience. When I ask business stakeholders how to circumvent this paradox, it's a simple answer: "Spend some time on the floor (in the store, the branch, the distribution center, etc.). See how we interact with our customers, because that's our number one priority."
Is this your experience? Have you been bounced back from the front lines? What adjustments will you make? And most of all, how does this impact your practice's 2014 priorities?
For those interested in providing a quantitative picture of their practice, please take this year's state of EA survey, in return for a free webinar and data set for 10 to 15 minutes of your time.