A recurring theme in enterprise architecture forums and debates is: “How do we demonstrate the value of EA or justify architectural overhead?” Some may view these discussions as academic, which compounds the problem, because it supports the idea that enterprise architects don’t really understand their role, that they don’t have a common definition of enterprise architecture, and that we consequently don’t need them!
By far the biggest problem is a mind-set that perpetuates certain misconceptions about EA. All too often the rewards from architecting are seen as long-term outcomes, EA is not regarded as an essential element in enterprise transformation, and the value from EA is not measured effectively.
The first myth is that EA is optional. The reality is that every enterprise has an enterprise architecture. What is optional is whether you choose to manage it proactively or not. And deciding to have a hands-on and positive approach to managing enterprise architecture is also not enough. You must manage EA well.
The second myth is that EA is no different than many other disciplines. The reality is that EA has three unique, distinguishing characteristics: (1) it provides a formal approach for documenting and transforming the foundational structures and behaviors of an enterprise; (2) it views the enterprise holistically; and (3) it manages change toward an emergent long-term vision in a series of incremental steps.
The third myth is that calling yourself an enterprise architect isn’t enough. The reality is that you have to think as an architect — otherwise you are simply duplicating some other role, such as IT manager or strategist.
The last myth is that EA only produces value when a new architectural state is implemented and operational. The reality is that a good EA team delivers value throughout the strategy to execution cycle; from the value of ideas, vision, and plans through the value of doing the right things; to the value of making the best of scarce resources and investments and seeing things through to completion.