Enterprise Architecture: The Ends Don't Justify the Means

June 13, 2006

No, they never do. Here is the deal. A centralized Enterprise Architecture (EA) function represents a compromise between the distributed functions in the enterprise. The distributed functions give up some control to invest in the enterprise technology strategy. As with any good investment, the returns need to outweighed the risk profile, otherwise the business functions will pull out of the whole EA thingy.

If the Enterprise Architecture function does not clearly articulate the returns on investment in technology, it will have trouble to enforce architecture governance. As much as the return may seem obvious to those situated in the realm of the enterprise -- nevertheless detached from the actual business functions -- returns on investment in technology need to be articulated, forecasted and measured on an ongoing basis to provide adequate architectural steering.

Even if EA is the right thing to do for most mature-growth organizations, the whole EA initiative is doomed to fail in the long-term without following this basic principle. Without it, it is hard to ascertain the required degree of adoption of the EA principles (how much EA do we need?), and the lack of clarity and transparency will eventually end up with the disengagement of the business functions.

Until an EA function is able to clearly articulate these returns, it should refrain itself from becoming a policing and dictatorial authority: The Ends Don't Justify the Means.

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