Enterprise Architecture Is Dead.

Enterprise architecture is dead. Post-mortem says the cause of death was too much in-breeding and self-asphyxiation.

I pains me to say this. I’ve been an enterprise architect since 1995. It’s been a great job.

But it’s time to say goodbye. This is why.

First, let’s distinguish between theory and practice.

In theory, enterprise architecture could have been an extremely valuable internal business intelligence and governance function for enterprises pursuing business transformation programs. Which — as you will have noticed — is every organisation on the planet these days.

In practice, enterprise architecture has utterly failed to live up to it’s promise. And it is continuing to fail. So we’ve got an undead zombie on our hands. Eww.

Let’s be honest. Business executives have always been skeptical about the value of enterprise architecture. Turns out they were right to be skeptical.

But the business has found two things that do make sense for them. Something they can own. And the enterprise architects are being left behind.

Here are the two things:

1. Agile

Specifically a robust, rapidly-evolving, sense-making SAFe(r) agile framework — just updated to version 4.5 in the last few days. This thing is going nuts. Their website is really well done. These guys are taking over the world.

2. Design Thinking

Agile practices are being combined with design thinking (and all the other terms associated with design thinking).

Here are some great design thinking companies. Educate yourself:

These companies are doing “enterprise architecture”. These companies are eating the enterprise architects’ lunch. These are the companies the Board of Directors and executives call when they need help defining a new transformational digital business strategy. These are the companies assisting the business to transform business capabilities. Some of these companies (e.g., From Here On) are using agile and design thinking approaches to define their customer’s technology strategies (read “cloud”) as well as business transformation. Some of these companies are doing agile software development. Take a look at Thoughtworks.

Disclaimer: I used to work for Enterprise Architects, which has re-branded as From Here On.

The Board of Directors and the executives do not call the enterprise architects. The enterprise architects have nothing of value to offer. Anyway, all the enterprise architects are busy writing “Solution Architecture Definition Documents” for programs and projects.

Many enterprise architects don’t know anything about design thinking. Many enterprise architects have steadfastly refused to learn anything about business architecture. Design thinking is business architecture.

But. Most enterprise architects are painfully aware of agile methods. They see the business shifting into agile like crazy. And suddenly the big question on the lips of enterprise architects is:

“Jeeze. We’re gettin’ left behind here! How can we keep up with all these new agile programs and projects the business is running? What can we do to convince everybody we have a relevant role to play in the new agile strategy?”

The answer is: “Dude. You’re dead.” It’s too late.

If you take a look at SAFe 4.5 (and you should), you will see that “enterprise architects” are nothing more than reactive order takers for technology platforms and services required to support Agile Release Trains. In SAFe, there is no expectation that the enterprise architects have a role in business architecture, or defining transformational programs at inception. In SAFe, there is no acknowledgement that enterprise architects even create long-term enterprise technology strategy, or that they support any strategic planning function.

In SAFe, enterprise architects do not play a role in assisting the business executive to define “Strategic Themes”. In SAFe, enterprise architects are located in the “Program Portfolio Management” level.

Sad. But realistic.

How can we know what is actually happening in the market?

Just have a look at any professional recruitment website. Globally. Monster, Seek, Indeed, LinkedIn, etc.

Almost without exception, job announcements for “enterprise architect” are IT roles. Technology. And you can see from the job description that the role of the enterprise architect is almost always specific to a program or project. It’s not “enterprise” architecture. In truth, “enterprise architects” rarely developed an understanding of the “enterprise”.

The enterprise is more than the sum of all in-flight programs and projects in the enterprise. Unfortunately, this is a mistake a lot of Agile and Design Thinking professionals are making, by the way.

Everybody wants to create new stuff. No one has a clear understanding of all the stuff we already have. So we’re always working on that thin marginal, incremental, slice of “new stuff” — when it’s not unusual for large enterprises to have a year-on-year OPEX of more than one billion dollars. But the IT OPEX is a sunk cost. Below the line. The enterprise architects should have been squeezing the fat out of the IT OPEX all along. But they’re too busy working on new stuff. Another lost opportunity.

On the other hand, you’ll see a lot of jobs for business analysts that sound a lot like they’d be doing things enterprise architects should have been doing all along.

Prove it yourself. Go to your favourite professional recruitment website and search for “human centered design” or “user experience” or “customer experience” or “business design”.

Ah ha. See? This is work that an enterprise business architect could have done. In theory. But they refused to learn new skills. Didn’t know what they didn’t know, and weren’t interested in finding out.

They remained in their comfort zone of technology too long. And that’s where they’ve chosen to stay. Dead.

Enterprise architecture was just a bunch of IT guys big-noting themselves about how important they were to the business. Yeah. Nah. It was all talk.

Dude. You’re dead.