What is Today´s Relevance of an Enterprise Architecture Practice?

Today´s content forms the first of six parts of the series called “Who is still interested in Enterprise Architecture in 2021?”. In this series, I provide my view on

  • the footprint of today´s Enterprise Architecture,
  • the potential death of the role of an Enterprise Architect,
  • the big players, such as TOGAF from The Open Group, AWS, or Azure,
  • as well as the role of EA tool providers and
  • other related certificates and developments on the market.

In today´s part one, I analyze the search term attention for common Enterprise Architecture terms on Google Trends. I highlight the origins of today´s most important EA frameworks, TOGAF and Zachman, and share my results on job searches. I deduce that Enterprise Architecture might be a dead practice.  

Regardless of whether you are reading this article or whether you are listening to the podcast version, make sure to also check out the other parts of the series as soon as they are available!

Who is still interested in Enterprise Architecture in 2021?
– Part 1 of 6

It seems that, especially in modern tech companies, the importance of the Enterprise Architecture (EA) practice is decreasing. Some organizations might even consider it an irrelevant practice. In the following, we analyze where such opinions emerge from. In the later parts of this series, we will provide arguments against that reasoning and provide an analysis, which underpins that this is not the end of Enterprise Architecture as a practice. However, Enterprise Architecture will go through a transformation towards an adapted set of activities, new priorities, and new required skills.

Traditional Enterprise Architecture Terms, Roles, and Frameworks Become Irrelevant

The attention for EA seems to steadily decrease: According to figure 1, which shows an extract from Google Trends, the number of search requests for the topic cluster “Enterprise Architecture” has declined by more than 50% since 2016 and by over 75% since 2004. In addition, figure 1 shows the relative amount of search requests for related EA terms, such as “Business Architecture”, “Application Lifecycle Management”, “Data Management”, and “Technology Management” in the years 2004 to 2021. All of them show a decreasing attention over time.

 

Figure 1

In addition, there are much less EA blogs and websites compared to a few decades ago. Due to the lack of updates, a lot of outdated EA content on best practices is still relatively high ranked by search engines.

TOGAF and Zachman Became Outdated

Further evidence comes from the most important industry standard frameworks, such as TOGAF and Zachman. TOGAF has first been published in 1995. It was developed by several member firms of The Open Group, including major players such as IBM or Oracle. The TOGAF Standard is updated every few years with the latest release being version 9.2 in April 2018. Although the latest version aims at better targeting the topic of Digital Transformation, the overall content has not changed much. In addition, certified practitioners do not need to update their certification between minor releases and the current main release went live in 2011. In the era of continuous Digital disruptions, a decade old content cannot be fully relevant anymore.

The second most important framework is the Zachman framework. With the initial release in 1987 and the latest major release in 2011, it has the same age as TOGAF. As a result, we can say that the most important Enterprise Architecture frameworks have not received any major updates in the last decade and are therefore – at least in parts – outdated.

Many Big Tech Companies Don´t Search For Enterprise Architects

Apart from the arguments above, there is an additional observation, which is common across many different organizations: The more old-world / legacy IT an organization has, the more important the Enterprise Architects in the organization are. Similarly, in organizations with old and new world IT, Enterprise Architects are responsible for managing the architecture of the old world. However, they have only little influence on the development of the new world IT; the digital area. If they interfere (e.g., try to align things), they are often perceived as slowing-down the process and as being an impediment or a threat to the project success. Although there are surely exceptions to this, there is a clear pattern that companies with little or no legacy IT do not have the role of an Enterprise Architect and do not look for such positions for their organizations. Job searches for “enterprise architect” at Netflix or Amazon seem to confirm this trend.

Does this mean that enterprise architecture is dead? Is there still any relevancy for enterprise architecture in 2021? What role does it play in today´s digital age? In the next parts of this series, we will answer these questions.

Did you like this part of the series “On the Relevance of Enterprise Architecture”? Can you confirm the observations and analysis, or do you disagree? Happy to hear what you think!

Join the Conversation

3 Comments

  1. Hi Markus,
    I agree with your observation that Enterprise Architecture (EA) as an identified profession is not popular now. In my opinion, the issue is how different people define it. Ideally, EA shouldn’t be tied to IT, but should be dealing with the business as a whole. Digital transformation is part of EA.

  2. Hi Markus,
    Thank you so much for your this post. I just came on your blog and your articles are very interesting.
    I am Enterprise Architect myself, working at Deloitte Luxembourg, for which I had the chance to develop a full EA capability, which is a strong success.
    I would be glad to exchange with you.
    I just opened my own blog, and will discuss it : https://archi4biz.com
    See you soon

  3. I believe that some level of enterprise architecture is in practice, just not called out as such – I also believe that it’s more important than ever as new capability requirements emerge. I agree, when someone speaks of “alignment,” it is viewed as slowing down progress. the challenge – the absence of alignment leads to continuation of less efficient methods that service more narrow interest – unless a governance body enforces collaboration and expanded use of a capability. EA has been difficult to sustain because it requires validation processes and recurring engagement; some critical personnel lose interest in it or are pulled away for higher priority efforts. My take on enterprise architecture is that it should be rebranded as “evolution of architecture,” leaving enterprise out of the title so that context for use of architecture is informed by risk and level of engagement (within or external to an enterprise, including communities of interest, communities of practice, an organization, an agency, a Center, et al). The point that I’m making is that context matters; exploring common and distinct interests allow organizations to consider risk, schedules, and other realities on the ground as they establish a baseline architecture, then evolve it as emerging conditions prevail. In the absence of asking about “next,” EA quickly becomes brittle rather than nimble, and has little value for the decision-maker that gives you the side eye when you raise need for alignment. When it comes to technology adoption, EA almost needs to be the clear glue that holds the parts together without diminishing the luster of the distinct, but interrelated parts.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *