If Enterprise Architecture is about the business, where are the business people?

The Open Group Enterprise Architecture conference in Munich last month saw a first meeting of Dutch and British Enterprise Architecture projects in Higher Education.

Probably the most noticeable aspect of the enterprise architecture in higher education session was the commonality of theme not just between the Dutch and British HE institutions, but also between the HE contingent and the enterprise architects of the wider conference. There are various aspects to the theme, but it really boils down to one thing: how does a bunch of architects get a grip on and then re-fashion the structure of a whole organisation?

In the early days, the answer was simply to set the scope of an architecture job to the expertise and jurisdiction of the typical enterprise architect team: IT systems. In both the notional goal of architecting work as well as its practice, that focus on just IT seems to be too limiting. Even a relatively narrow interpretation of the frequently cited goal of enterprise architecture – to better align systems to the business – presupposes a heavy involvement of all departments and the clout to change practices across the organisation.

A number of strategies to overcome the conundrum were reported on by the HE projects. One popular method is to focus on one concrete project development at a time, and evolve an architecture iteratively. Another is to involve everyone by letting them determine and agree on a set of principles that underpin the architecture work before it starts. Yet other organisations tackle the scope and authority issue head-on and sort governance structures before tackling the structure of the organisation; much like businesses tend to do.

In either of these cases, though, architects remain mostly focussed on IT systems, while remaining wholly reliant on the rest of the organisation for what the systems actually look like and clues about what they should do.

Presentations can be seen on the JISC website

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