Are we the reason it is so hard to express EA’s value?

by | October 27, 2010

I was on a biweekly EA2010 conference call today and got pretty frustrated with the discussion.  There are some really amazing people like Brenda Michelson and Aleks Buterman on the call that get it and recognize that the value of Enterprise Architecture is what you make it in each organization.

Then there are others who want to walk into the bottomless pit of defining EA, measuring ROI on EA and talking about white papers that have been published.   If all of those papers really made a difference, we would not be having these conference calls about the challenge of getting EA recognized as a practice in our organizations.

Brenda and I had a sidebar on Twitter about this.  Here is the exchange we had:

leodesousa RT @bmichelson: …”there’s a paper on that” / ugh! show me the execution – #entarch – I hear you! show value!

bmichelson @leodesousa maybe what we are talking about is “street smart” #entarch

leodesousa @bmichelson “street smart” fits very well with “activist”!! I surely don’t want to get caught up in “what is EA?” #entarch

bmichelson @leodesousa ugh, no. me either. “street smart” is what we need

bmichelson @leodesousa but, in too many cases, book smart (whitepaper smart) is what we have #entarch

Why can’t we stop trying to find the “one right” definition or think that there is one generic ROI model for measuring the value of enterprise architecture??

We are not only missing the point but we will never garner the support of our senior leaders or be able to demonstrate the value EA can bring.

For years, I and others have advocated a practical approach by a clear demonstration of value within our organizations.  Can we create a simple set of proven practices to get there?  “Street Smart” practices. Can we put these in a document to help other Enterprise Architects to be successful in demonstrating value?  I think we can but based on today’s call,  we have to stop with the rhetoric.

As Brenda so rightly says “too many cases, book smart (whitepaper smart) is what we have”

Thanks for indulging my rant.

7 thoughts on “Are we the reason it is so hard to express EA’s value?

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention Are we the reason it is so hard to express EA’s value? | Enterprise Architecture in Higher Education --

  2. Mike Kavis


    Great post. I totally agree with you. In fact, I am so tired of arguing what an EA is, what an EA does, and what value EA has that I have virtually disappeared from blogging, tweeting, and socializing about it. Instead, I spend my time delivering and adding value each day. I don’t have a white paper explaining how and why i do it. I just do it because investors, consumers, and management need me to.

  3. Leo de Sousa Post author

    Mike, Great to hear from you. I completely agree. The value is “self evident” if you do the work. We work EA into our planning and projects so that the value is obvious to our stakeholders and sponsors. The end result is that they ask us to be part of the projects to help deliver success. That is what “value” is! Don’t be a stranger. Leo

  4. Doug Newdick

    Hi Leo,

    You have hit the nail on the head. I have looked from the sidelines on the definition of EA discussions, and occasionally sniped in trying to put a spanner in the works. I think it is particularly naive to believe that there is a single definition of EA. I also agree that there is no one model for how EA delivers value. For me EA is supremely contextual – what EA is and how it adds value will vary wildly between enterprises. I am particularly aggrieved by people who think that EA must always have a particular aim. All of these things are to me just means to an end – the ultimate end is furthering the aims of the business, not reducing complexity, decreasing IT costs, reducing application portfolios etc. People risk elevating the tools and techniques of EA to ends in themselves, which they are not.
    Based on your post, what I would love to see more of are case studies – what has some one done in their particular organisation that has worked – has added value. These seem to me to be essential, and yet sorely lacking.



    1. Leo de Sousa Post author

      Doug, Thanks for the excellent comments. I think you have hit on something. If we all are trying to assist our organizations to advance their strategy (or on a more basic level, improve operations) then a series of case studies would be excellent. I will endeavour to write some up over the next few months for publishing.

      Thanks again, Leo

  5. Nick Malik

    Is it OK to be guilty of some of the “sin” of discussing “what is EA” while at the same time as agreeing with you: that the value of EA doesn’t come from its definition?

    These are questions for two different audiences. The only people who should care about “what” EA is are people who want to create a job for themselves. The customers, OTOH, only care about what you can do for them.

    I have stopped using the word “Enterprise Architecture” in most conversations. I provide a title when I meet the customer. The rest of the time, I talk about what I can do for them, and demonstrably deliver value.

    Show the customer value.

    Is it a crime to ask each other to define EA? It is if we expose that to customers. Otherwise, if we are talking among ourselves, it is not a crime… just a waste of time.

    1. Leo de Sousa Post author

      Nick, Great to hear from you. We are in violent agreement!

      Absolutely not an issue for us to have the internal “navel gazing” discussions. The reason I wrote the post was that the group was trying to create a document to help EA’s describe the value of taking a disciplined approach. Instead, the talk revolved around a particular person talking about all the whitepapers that are out there about EA.

      I too have stopped saying “Enterprise Architecture” with the people we serve.

      Perhaps I am tiring of the circular debates about what EA is and would rather help our colleagues with some practical ways to show the customer value.

      Cheers! Leo


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