Enterprise Architecture (EA) Still Struggles To Show Its Value

Architects don’t have an easy job and they have difficulties in effectively showcasing how their work delivers business outcomes. Unlike technology delivery — which provides more immediate tangible value, such as project delivery, infrastructure build outs, or a new software release cycle going live — an architect’s day-to-day is harder for the business to relate to. Architects must grapple with the complexity of understanding the current IT estate, its day-to-day demands, and looking ahead and preparing the organization for future needs. In January, I released a data snapshot titled, Tech Pros Still Struggle To See The Value Of Enterprise Architecture, followed by a blog in April called, Enterprise Architecture Teams Struggle To Communicate Architecture’s Value. These highlight a growing focus within architecture communities to demonstrate business value and show that, globally, we still have a way to go in transforming the common business perception of EA as an academic ivory tower activity.

EAs Deliver Value By Showing How Their Work Drives Business Outcomes

Over the past two years, clients have frequently asked me, “How can I deliver more value to my company?” To answer this question I developed two reports: Demonstrate Enterprise Architecture’s Value To Business Stakeholders and Demonstrate Enterprise Architecture’s Value To IT Stakeholders. These reports draw insights from our clients as well as our own experience. Each report demonstrates how architecture practices and activities contribute to delivery of business outcomes and facilitate high-performance IT strategies.

Architects support the business in building a transformation plan aligned with the businesses target operating model and strategy. They drive value by aligning technology investment plans with the business strategy over a long-term time horizon, helping the business to execute its overall strategy using technology. A group chief architect at a global bank told us: “Large companies must take a long-term perspective on transformation, extending beyond a decade. The strategic transformation plan should be regularly updated to incorporate innovative ideas while also serving as a guiding principle that is familiar to everyone.”

Architects provide value on the technology side by documenting the technology landscape to manage the IT estate and associated technical debt. EAs maintain the organization’s technology and information system landscape to: 1) get a logical view of technology assets, their lifecycle, and their use by business applications; and 2) track physical instances of the technology and log these in a configuration management database. Architects implement technology lifecycle management to control technical debt, assess its impact on the application landscape, and take action to remove duplication, removing unnecessary resources and retiring costly legacy applications. Resulting cost savings provide clear value to the business by allowing architects to tangibly demonstrate how their work helps IT run more efficiently.

If you’re a Forrester client and you’re interested in working on the value proposition for your architecture practice, please request a guidance session or inquiry with me to discuss in detail.