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EA today: It's about insights, not architecture

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The entire practice of enterprise architecture is changing, moving away from its traditional focus on technology issues to business requirements.

Insights, not architecture will be EA's value proposition.

Alex Cullen, Forrester Research

That's according to research and advisory firm, Forrester Research, which has undertaken several surveys over the past year into different aspects of the enterprise architecture (EA) market. All come up with the same basic conclusion: EA today ain't what it used to be.

One of the clearest indications of this change became evident in Forrester's Q3 2016 Global State of Enterprise Architecture and Portfolio Management Online Survey which asked global enterprise architecture professionals to rank the primary drivers for EA within their organisations.

Nearly half (48%) ranked "improve tech management planning" and thus improve overall effectiveness of tech investments, in their top three primary drivers, while "consolidate application and technology" to reduce tech management costs was as highly rated by 40%. So nothing really new there.

However, the next three most recognised drivers for EA - rated within their top three drivers by no fewer than 39% and 32% of respondents respectively - indicated a shift in focus to improving business operations and enabling agile digital experience.

Nearly 40% placed "improve business results through and improvement in business process and/or operations (39%) in their top three drivers while 32% rated "enable or support customer experience improvement" and "enable or support business agility" so as to improve the business' ability to remain competitive as highly.

With just less than one third of respondents (31%) ranking "enabling or supporting other business strategies" within their top three drivers; and 30% giving a similar weighting to "enable or support digital business transformation initiatives", the shift in EA priorities became more evident.

The same survey also revealed a growing involvement of EA with a broader set of activities with 64% of respondents reporting that they planned to increase their collaboration efforts with business strategy teams; 61% with HR; 60% with the data governance and Business Intelligence teams; and more than half with the customer experience team.

The results of this survey were supported by an analysis of the hundreds of enquiries Forrester received from clients in the 12 months to end-June 2017.

XHead = EA professionals' challenges

According to Alex Cullen, author of several Forrester's EA reports, these inquiries help understand the challenges that EA professionals face as well as to select the right topics to research.

Two main themes emerged from the analysis of the enquiries:

EA professionals want to reposition their program away from its historical tactical and technical roots towards a strategic and business focus - a shift which demands change in how they organise their deliverables and how they measure their success.

As businesses embrace agile delivery, working to make their planning processes faster and more agile, so EA professionals strive to make their own processes faster and more agile.

"As firms address digital transformation and how to become customer-led, insights-driven,

fast, and connected, enterprise architecture has tremendous value to offer; and insights, not architecture will be EA's value proposition," Cullen said.

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