What matters when assessing your EA program – Forrester

by | February 2, 2011

I seem to be on a roll writing about my impressions of Forrester Research articles recently.  I meant to dig into a blog post by Forrester Research analyst Henry Peyret from December, 2010 earlier. Henry explains the approach taken to gather information and then makes a couple of key statements.

Keep it simple and focus on EA’s ability to drive critical activities.

Henry is bang on here. Trying to build sophisticated models and documenting everything in your current architecture to a high degree of detail will result in a massive amount of effort invested to deliver little business value.

There is no end state where you’re supposed to be and no score you’re supposed to attain; rather, you should compare what you do against what the most effective EA programs do to drive these critical activities – for example, IT investment governance.

Again, I completely agree.  EA is an ongoing practice and there is never an end state where you can say “We are done”.  I also like changing the focus on scoring to comparing the impact to critical business activities.  This is essential to build trust in the organization that the investments in building an EA practice demonstrate clear business value.

Henry provides some suggested dimensions and measures within them that can be used to understand your investment.  The three dimensions and measures proposed are:

Lastly, Henry asks the following questions:

What do you think about these dimensions? Are they the right ones? Are there others? Is it possible to put a “number” to maturity? Is it even useful?

The dimensions are concise and provide the right level of abstraction to cover the broad scope of an Enterprise Architecture practice.  These 3 dimensions fit well with a post I wrote about Enterprise Architecture Roles and I would definitely include all three at top level groupings.  I might suggest one other dimension “Tangible Business Value” .  This dimension must have a monetary amount as its unit of measure.  Being explicit about the real dollars, pounds, and euros saved or gained by EA’s involvement is the most significant way for Enterprise Architecture practices to embedded into the culture of an organization.

I have moved away in my thinking from putting a number (maturity level) to describe how well an EA practice is developed.  I don’t find it useful and particularly do not believe there is any value in using it to compare your organization to others.

Thanks Henry for sharing your dimensions and measures.  I will be revisiting this approach each time I look at how our EA practice can better assist our organization.

2 thoughts on “What matters when assessing your EA program – Forrester

  1. Doug Newdick

    Hi Leo,

    Nice summary – I will go back and take a look at Henry’s post. I think you are right about the lack of usefulness in maturity “numbers”. My experience (with CMMI, ISO9000 etc.) is that these give a false sense of science and quantification to measures of quality, are overly simplistic and reductionistic (only one linear measure?!) and also give rise to attempts to game the system to get the highest number.
    I like the idea of using tangible business value as a key yardstick, but worry that in practice it is far too hard to achieve, and is again often based on a false perception of accuracy.


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