Location, Location, Location – Where Should an EA Team Report?

April 4, 2011

At the recent Troux Worldwide Conference in Austin I moderated two panels, one on Top Performing EA Teams and the other on EA Leadership. We had many questions submitted by audience members and were unable to answer them all. In the next few weeks Tim and I will be offering our perspectives on some of the questions the panels didn’t have time for and share thoughts on a few they did. “Where should an EA team report?” was one of the latter.

It seems that many EA teams we talk to ask about reporting structure, either as reinforcement that they are in the right place now, or as justification for reorganization if they are not. If I had to answer, without knowledge of an organization’s specific circumstances, I would say something like “given the latest trends in enterprise architecture towards stronger business architecture, the EA Team should ideally report directly to the CEO or executive committee in some form of a strategy function”. This gives the team the imprimatur of executive authority, strong visibility, and broad reach across business and IT concerns – truly the “enterprise” perspective.

But that answer isn’t realistic in most current organizations. First, we’d have to establish that the team is really doing true “Enterprise” architecture vs. IT architecture. A good discussion on what we mean by this is included in Tim’s blog entry from last year on The Transformational View of EA. Transformational EA specifies business architecture that is owned, driven, developed and maintained by business people as opposed to their IT proxies. It is coordinated in partnership with IT architecture-oriented EA’s focusing on the IT and systems-oriented perspectives. Until that happens it is unlikely that an EA Team will reside at the level of my answer above. If it has happened already, they have probably been moved up to that level or are already well on their way.

The question most EA teams should ask would be “What is the best place for EA to report in MY organization and how do I get there?” The first part of that is a much more straight-forward question to answer. For a Team working on IT architecture the best place to report is directly to the CIO as part of an Office of the CIO, along with the PMO, IT Strategy Group (if not already the EA group), and other CIO functions. This positions the EA team organizationally on par with operations/infrastructure, security/compliance, and development/support.

Many EA teams find themselves deeper in an infrastructure group doing technical architecture or as part of development support organization. Is that bad? Not necessarily. It is the starting place for many EA Teams. It’s only bad if the scope and scale of the team’s reach is constrained by it. I have seen cases where the EA team administratively reports into a supportive infrastructure director (or development director) who recognizes the value of EA, their role, and gives them license to practice something closer to holistic, forward-looking, business-driven EA. After all, good EA teams are not self-contained. They are highly dependent on engaging a virtual community of stakeholders and contributors from across the organization. Where the team reports, provided again that the leader is supportive, is less important than what it does and how it reaches out to influence others.

So, the bottom line answer to the question of where an EA team should report cannot be from a purist perspective but instead should be based on a combination of practical realities along with the vision and aspiration of the team to drive value. Whenever I hear the “where SHOULD we report” question I prefer, instead, to deflect it and work with the team to answer the question “how can they drive maximum value”. If they can’t do it where they are then we determine, realistically, “where COULD they report”, and “what will it take to get there?”


Updated Registration Info – EAdirections speaking at AOGEA Collaboration Event in Southfield, MI

September 1, 2010

UPDATE: It is still not too late to join us at this multidisciplinary event in Michigan.   A Registration Site is now available with full event details and information on how to register.  Allen Brown, CEO and President of The Open Group will be delivering the opening keynote presentation.  If you have any questions, or would just like to chat before the event or on-site, drop us a note via the attached form.

George Paras and Tim Westbrock are scheduled to speak at the upcoming Collaboration Event sponsored by the AOGEA Michigan Chapter (Association of Open Group Enterprise Architects) on September 16, 2010 from 2:00 PM to 7:00 PM at Lawrence Technological University in Southfield, MI.  The theme of the event is “Interoperability between various disciplines in an enterprise”.

In our session titled, “Don’t Call It EA if It Isn’t EA!: Holistic EA for a Tightly Integrated Enterprise” we’ll be discussing the dynamics of Enterprise Architecture as it evolves from an IT-oriented discipline into a necessary part of a compelling and successful business transformation effort.

This event is a collaboration between the AOGEA Michigan Chapter and the ABPMP SE Michigan Chapter (The Association of Business Process Management), itSMF Great Lakes Chapter (Information Technology Service Management Forum), and the SE Michigan IIBA Chapter (International Institute of Business Analysis).


EAdirections speaking at AOGEA Collaboration Event in Southfield, MI

August 4, 2010

George Paras and Tim Westbrock are scheduled to speak at the upcoming Collaboration Event sponsored by the AOGEA Michigan Chapter (Association of Open Group Enterprise Architects) on September 16, 2010 from 2:00 PM to 7:00 PM at Lawrence Technological University in Southfield, MI.  The theme of the event is “Interoperability between various disciplines in an enterprise”.

In our session titled, “Don’t Call It EA if It Isn’t EA!: Holistic EA for a Tightly Integrated Enterprise” we’ll be discussing the dynamics of Enterprise Architecture as it evolves from an IT-oriented discipline into a necessary part of a compelling and successful business transformation effort.

This event is a collaboration between the AOGEA Michigan Chapter and the ABPMP SE Michigan Chapter (The Association of Business Process Management), itSMF Great Lakes Chapter (Information Technology Service Management Forum), SE Michigan IIBA Chapter (International Institute of Business Analysis) and the local PMI Chapter (Project Management Institute).

Further details will be posted shortly on the AOGEA Michigan Chapter site or use the attached form to contact us for more information.


CIO’s and EA – Leadership Challenges in IT

February 28, 2010

We ask a lot of our CIOs.  Just follow the myriad magazine articles and research pieces targeting CIOs to read of the breadth and depth of expectations heaped upon a single role.   The industry experts who define what CIOs “should be” suggest that they must be technology visionaries and innovators, business transformation change agents, vendor relationship negotiators, savvy business managers and human capital performance motivators, cost-cutters, quality experts, portfolio managers, talent scouts, have operations and service management knowledge, be technology, process and solutions aware, passionate leaders and experts on the company’s industry, etc.  The list goes on.  Actually, I agree with all of these traits and more – they are all required.   It’s a tough job and can’t easily be characterized into a simple role description.    

As a case in point, I have been following Bob Evans’ column in Information Week of late.  I enjoy his perspectives.  His most recent column, “Do CIOs Still Matter” , struck a chord in me.  He listed ten ideas to get started redefining a CIOs roles and boundaries.  Many of his points spoke to things that we have been coaching our Enterprise Architecture clients on for years.  In particular, he commented that today’s CIOs “spend too much time on the tech side of IT and should instead be more involved in technology-enabled business growth and customer intimacy”.  Other points included “lead the charge in seeing the future”, “drive transformation” and my favorite, “be a business-model buster”.

So, what is the CIO to do?  How can a CIO be tactical and strategic, responsive yet not reactionary, thoughtful and systematic yet not slow and obstructionist, operational and also transformational, cost-sensitive while investment and growth oriented?  The simple answer is that in all but the most extraordinary individuals, it isn’t possible, or it is at least unlikely that all of the required personality traits and knowledge can co-exist.  The best approach to being broad and deep enough is to surround him/herself with a strong team, with each member focused on different aspects of the role.   The best CIOs are already doing this, realizing that the CIO role isn’t intended to be a single super-human (though many white papers seem to suggest that and some CIOs try to become one) but is instead an aggregation of the skills and talents of a group. Traditionally, that group is called the “Office of the CIO”.

Many CIO’s already recognize that they can’t personally be everything to everyone and that they must have a great staff.  Most CIOs put a director in charge of the data center with a focus on operational efficiency and meeting service levels.  One or more directors are usually focused on solutions development and delivery.  The better organizations have a PMO in place to shepherd the project portfolio, though most PMO’s are low maturity engaging in mainly project tracking and reporting.  More on that in a future article.  What is missing in most CIO Offices is a person responsible for the big picture future state business context, the holistic cross enterprise perspective, the long view of the health and utility of the asset portfolio, and to address larger concerns like complexity management, portfolio optimization, integration, and the integrity of the information, technology and business architecture assets.  These activities and perspectives are embodied in the role Tim and I have prescribed to the “enterprise” architect since we began in this discipline in the 1990’s.    

While empowering a diverse IT leadership team is necessary, successful CIOs also understand that the buck stops with them, so they need to be able to make sound decisions when the rest of their staff doesn’t.  One powerful way to be sure the staff can address all the perspectives above, including the longer term, holistic enterprise view, is to elevate the Chief Architect to be a full member of the Office of the CIO.  If you have an EA function, but it is doing only the subset of enterprise architecture that we describe as “IT” architecture ( which usually means they reside several levels down in your organization)  then augment their skills and personnel and have them engage in the strategic and business-oriented discussions described above.  You will find them to be a valuable addition to your core team.

Stay tuned, we will be writing a lot more on the placement of EA in the Office of the CIO, the complimentary roles that exist in the Office, the dynamics, politics and culture of the team at that level, and the processes, perspectives, and leadership skills required for that team to support the breadth and depth of activities expected of the modern CIO.


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