Source – B. Shaw, Principal, BRS-Management.com - 2010
More than 66% of Enterprise Architecture initiatives
fail. And that’s a conservative estimate
based on a
The last several years have seen a wealth of discussion, expert opinion, and blogging contributions on the subject; much of it valuable stuff. Here’s a summary of analysis and opinions on why many EA initiatives fail.
Unrealistic Expectations – Most EA projects have some kind of triggering event, such as a troubled integration project or chronic problems implementing IT changes. There is an expectation, partly due to the hype about EA, that putting an EA framework in place will solve these problems. But EA success is only as good as the organization’s existing capabilities. EA frameworks only organize what is already there. It takes collective expertise to work with existing material, fill in what’s missing, and fashion it into a tactical vision and plan. It’s like having a house architecture framework of the basement, main, and second floor levels, with a series of separate room plans for the whole house. If there is no skilled architect to organize the rooms into strategic floor plans, the architecture is useless.
Emphasis on Technology Instead of Business – According to EA
surveys, the top three drivers for implementing EA are better strategic
planning, improved business agility, and improved business-IT alignment 3. These are Business related imperatives, yet
most EA implementations focus mostly on technology and
Poor Organization Support – To many employees, an Enterprise
Architecture is just a fancy name for a new place to find corporate
documentation. It does not provide them with any perceivable
So now that we are armed with this knowledge, why are EA projects still failing? Well, as they say, ‘it’s complicated’. Here are a few additional factors.
Firstly, EA implementation is a collaborative effort. It involves a lot of people from different
areas and with different levels of expertise.
To make it work, there has to be a belief in the motives and a common
understanding of the goals and
Secondly, EA implementation is work and work costs money. Simply adding EA tasks on top of a resource’s existing workload, no matter how convincing the rallying argument is, is not going to result in dedicated work. The EA development has to be set up and managed as an ongoing project, with resources identified and committed with funding. Trying to engage subject matter experts and other resources without allocating blocks of funded effort is only going to frustrate the analysts and architects who depend on their time to develop accurate and complete artifacts. As for business and executive resources, they must be included in the plan and must be committed to the required effort involved in expressing and communicating business strategies and objectives. Simply sitting in the captain’s chair and commanding ‘make it so’ will not result in an effective Enterprise Architecture.
And thirdly, the EA implementation has to be viewed as a
continuous commitment. There is no real project
end and consequently no real point to calculate ROI. It is an evolution, best to start small and
simple and develop detail and complexity over time, as adoption among the user
community matures. Many organizations
establish artifact detail level standards and framework completeness targets
that exceed EA users’ needs and result in long implementation times. Many do
not get past the
In summary, there are many things that influence the success of an Enterprise Architecture initiative. The potential for success or failure is largely a reflection of the organization’s existing culture, politics, and cohesion. Looking at other’s performance is not always a good indicator on how your initiative will turn out. But by all indications, be clear, be reasonable, and start small are good starting points.
1 Jonathan Broer for
2 J-D Muller, Market-Visio Oy, October 2008
3 Aris Expert Paper, ‘Why Two Thirds of EA Projects Fail’, June 2009