Ten Pitfalls In Establishing An Enterprise Architecture

Avoiding getting snared in these traps avoids having to spend a lot of money later to fix problems, Gartner says. In addition, EA benefits can be realized faster and the risk of program failure is reduced.

InformationWeek Staff, Contributor

September 7, 2009

3 Min Read

To help organizations avoid expensive fixes in the future, analyst firm Gartner has put together a list of 10 pitfalls organizations need to avoid in establishing an enterprise architecture program.

Two of the biggest traps appear right in the beginning -- choosing the wrong person as lead architect and not engaging businesspeople in the project. Avoiding getting snared in these pitfalls and the others avoids having to spend a lot of money later to fix problems.

"Avoiding the pitfalls in the first place is much easier than climbing out of a hole you’ve inadvertently tumbled into," Scott Bittler, research VP at Gartner said in a statement. "Applying the ways to avoid these pitfalls results in achieving EA benefits faster and reduced risk of program failure. It will also improve the credibility of IT among business leaders."

Gartner lists choosing an ineffective chief architect as the single biggest danger. Ineffective leadership can't be overcome even by a good organizational structure and adequate staffing levels.

Therefore, a lead architect should be replaced quickly, if that person does not have the needed "soft skills." Those talents include enthusiasm, communication strengths and passion. In addition, the person has to be well respected and strategically minded.

Another top priority is in educating the executive team, so they understand the value of the enterprise architecture program and are willing to sponsor it. "The key is to sell first and architect later,"Bittler said.

Not engaging businesspeople can cause serious problems by failing to align IT and business goals. As a result, non-technical people will try to make technical decisions and architects will become too reactionary and tactical in response to projects,Gartner said.

Another pitfall is choosing to do only technical domain-level architecture, a dated approach that is even narrower in scope than technical architecture.Gartner recommends a holistic EA best-practice that is much broader and includes business, information and solutions architecture.

In addition, architects should recognize that successful EA provides descriptive guidance, which current-state EA does not. As a result, the latter delays delivery of EA value and hampers the creation of good future-state EA.

"The temptation is often to do the easy -- current-state -- EA first," Bittler said. "Instead, establish the business context and then focus first on future-state EA."

Another potential pitfall is to have the EA group establish most of the architecture. This is a trap because the EA content is off the mark because of the lack of input from the business side. In addition, there's no buy-in from businesspeople.

The primary job of architects is to lead the EA process rather than impose EA content on the organization, Gartner said. In providing leadership, architects should form virtual teams to create content and seek consensus on the content.

Another way architects can lessen the risk of failure is to create a slide to demonstrate each success story of EA applied to a project. The presentation should include measurement and documentation of EA in the program plan.

Other high priorities include establishing integration and interoperability standards for the business units linked in the enterprise architecture. The standards must account for more than just technical architecture, and enable better business agility and integration,Gartner said.

The last two pitfalls include resisting the temptation to wait for more architecture content before setting governance processes. Instead, content and governance should be developed in parallel.

Finally, architects need to spend an adequate amount of time on communications. Key messages about EA are not intuitively obvious, and it is critical that organization develop and execute an EA communications plans with messages tailored to each audience.

"The key for enterprise architects is to create not the perfect or most elegant architecture for the moment, but the most adaptable architecture for the future," Bittler said. "EA is a challenging discipline and careful attention to the basics can mean the difference between failure and success."

More information on Gartner's EA advice is available on the firm's Web site.

Never Miss a Beat: Get a snapshot of the issues affecting the IT industry straight to your inbox.

You May Also Like

More Insights