Should the IS/IT tail be wagging the EA dog?

24 May 2010

Jeanne W. Ross recently proposed the following.

“Let me propose the following hypothesis: Although EA was initially a function within the IT organization, we will soon find IT to be a function within EA. This is actually not a wild theory; it’s a trend.”

- Jeanne W. Ross, Foreword, The SIM Guide to Enterprise Architecture, CRC Press, 2010, p. xli.

 

This is a great proposal.

Making the IS/IT function part of the Enterprise Architecture (EA) function makes much more sense than having the Enterprise Architecture function as part of IT.

Unfortunately the latter situation is far too common as organisations make the mistake that EA is somehow a more specialised version of Solution Architecture and Technical Architecture.

From the business perspective, the IS and IT functions are often seen as part of the problem and if the Enterprise Architecture (EA) function reports to IS/IT then by association it can also seen as part of the problem.

Since EA is very close to the business by definition (i.e. the ‘Enterprise’) this make life for an Enterprise Architect very difficult. Their natural and main business stakeholders will be wary of sharing their discussions on strategy and business ideas with EA.

The EA function should ideally report to the executive board and be a peer with the business functions.

Often the EA function reports to the CIO.  If the CIO is the head of IS and IT functions, then this can be a problem.

Ideally the Chief Enterprise Architect (i.e. the CEA) should be a new ‘C’ level executive position and a peer of the CIO and not report to the CIO.

This would instantly give the Enterprise Architecture function the level of authority and position with the organisation hierarchy that it needs to do its job properly.

See also the discussion on this topics started by Birgitt Hartje

at http://www.linkedin.com/groups?home=&gid=48747&trk=anet_ug_hm

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5 Responses to “Should the IS/IT tail be wagging the EA dog?”


  1. Since EA “grew up in IT”, most business people regard it as an “EA” think. I even heard our CIO, at one point, tell the Chief Architect, “to lay off the ‘architecture’ stuff'”. Unless EA moves outside the business and the EA team is 50/50 with personnel from the business and from IT, it will continue to be the group of senior technologists. Unfortunately, at least in my company, the notion of a CEA is never going to happen because IT is not that important. The CIO reports to the Chief Admin Officer, the CTO reports to to the CIO and the Chief Enterprise Architect is peers with the “Chief Technology Architect” reporting to the CTO.

    I wrote about this in my blog as well – http://practicingea.blogspot.com/2009/11/evolution-was-bad-for-neanderthals.html

    Cheers.


  2. Since EA “grew up in IT”, most business people regard it as an “EA” think. I even heard our CIO, at one point, tell the Chief Architect, “to lay off the ‘architecture’ stuff'”. Unless EA moves outside the business and the EA team is 50/50 with personnel from the business and from IT, it will continue to be the group of senior technologists. Unfortunately, at least in my company, the notion of a CEA is never going to happen because IT is not that important. The CIO reports to the Chief Admin Officer, the CTO reports to to the CIO and the Chief Enterprise Architect is peers with the “Chief Technology Architect” reporting to the CTO.

    I wrote about this in my blog as well in my November 2009 post, Evolution Was Bad for Neanderthals. http://practicingea.blogspot.com/2009/11/evolution-was-bad-for-neanderthals.html

    Cheers.


    • Thanks Brian.
      I’ve come across quite a few CIOs that were not interested in Enterprise Architecture, but also many examples where the EA team reported directly to the CIO.
      In the most effective examples, the CIO was part of the business and not part of IS/IT.

  3. Ian Glossop Says:

    It is important to distinguish “Information Systems” from “Information Technology”. Most IT Departments are IT supply organisations. Information Systems are an inevitable part of the business. EA should be about the architecture of the business and its information systems. This is a part of “The Business” and not a part of most “IT Departments”. So EA should be a function within the business and not part of the IT Department. In fact, while all businesses need Information Systems and therefore EA, most don’t need an (internal) Information Technology Department. EA should just buy IT Services from the most cost-effective provider – IT is procured by EA. Jeanne Ross is right (as usual).


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