Enterprise architect critical of government re-use focus

Enterprise architecture has become hijacked by IT people to justify IT, says Mike Lowe

Enterprise architecture in New Zealand is mostly confined to IT programmes, and business has been slow to respond to the opportunities of globalisation, says Mike Lowe, who two years ago established a local chapter of the international Association of Enterprise Architects.

Interviewed in the February issue of the organisation’s journal, he said: “The demand for new ideas and new thinking has been less than anticipated, resulting in a lesser demand for enterprise architecture as a potential contributor to strategic business change initiatives.”

Lowe tells Computerworld most New Zealand organisations still believe enterprise architecture to be an IT discipline where its greatest value is in the rationalisation of IT services.

“Lots of companies are struggling to articulate the real value to the executive team,” he says.

“There is a lot of evidence that New Zealand is far more focused on cost accounting than on innovation. The things that really demand attention become a secondary priority to reducing costs.”

Enterprise architecture should be a top-down approach associated with the business needs rather than a bottom-up approach where IT uses it to justify its existence, he says.

“It’s become hijacked by IT people to justify IT.”

Lowe says enterprise architecture should report into someone responsible for business change, ideally a business programme office, rather than into the CIO or someone who reports to the CIO.

“Business functions should be modelled, say, five years out and be completely independent of IT, whose role is then to respond. IT should be an enabler.

“Government gets hung up on desperately finding opportunities for re-use. That’s of some value but it’s solution architecture, not enterprise architecture, which is not an enabler for business improvement within government.

“Very few government enterprise architects are doing business architecture.”

He says a lot of business people believe setting strategy is sufficient and that line managers will then implement it.

“That can result in a very fragmented approach. Enterprise architecture is more holistic and provides a way of setting investment initiatives that take a far more enterprise-wide approach.”

Lowe points out that under globalisation big companies focus on enterprise architecture. He cites one in India that employs 1000 enterprise architects.

“Under globalisation, the window of opportunity for New Zealand will only stay open for so long. Those who are still focused on cost accounting will be potentially more efficient but will completely lose the opportunity.

He says that to achieve the full benefits of enterprise architecture, there is a need for a common language that must be understood by business people, one such as has been successfully employed for the past five years by the Dutch government.

“Standards around enterprise architecture are a bit of a mis-nomer. It’s the language that’s important.”

He says there are a number of such reference models which might only need to be modified by 5% to suit New Zealand business conditions.

Lowe formed the New Zealand chapter of the Association of Enterprise Architects to try to drive the benefits of enterprise architecture into the minds of business leaders. The chapter currently has 16 members but talks regularly to 100 other interested parties who engage in interest group discussions, he says.

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