Crystal Ball Time

Each year, Anne Mullaney, sets a challenge to the Cutter consultants: to look into their crystal balls for the annual Cutter Predictions campaign!

This year I’m predicting more stealth enterprise architecture! I’d like to say that I invented this phrase – but I’ve found at least two previous uses – one in a comment by Peter Parslow in 2010, the other from Alec Blair – the head of Enterprise Architecture for Alberta Health Services, who gave described the journey of how his team has used stealth Enterprise Architecture to move AHS to operate more consistently like one organization.

Now Enterprise Architects have always had to play the political game and use stealth to sell their EA visions. Tricking decision makers into taking small steps that in combination cause longer-term transformation has long been part of the art of EA. At an Enterprise Architecture Conference and Exhibition in Washington, D.C. in 2006, Darren Ash talked about offering quick, immediate fixes, rather than promising future benefits from a mature enterprise architecture, as the best way to sell it!

But what I’m predicting for 2014 is something different. What I’ve noticed is that there are several examples where organizations have been forced into using EA techniques, almost without realizing that they are using EA! For example, individual government departments are required to share data across borders with other departments, and the most practical way to do this is to adopt common architectures. What is happening is that pragmatic necessity is forcing companies to adopt EA practice to solve immediate concerns, but in adopting EA techniques these organizations are putting in place structures that make a good EA foundation for the future. Enterprise Architecture by stealth!

So maybe we need to combine the political savvy that architects have always needed with recognition that there is often an emerging architecture that we weren’t necessarily planning or even expecting. 2014 could be a year in which some of our architectural goals are met by stealth – through the serendipity of individual EA outcomes within a broad eco-system that build and merge by chance into a coherent and well-architected whole! It could be just fanciful thinking, but then again, it might already be taking place – that’s the nature of stealth!


By the way: in 2013 I focused on three trends that I thought would have a big impact on EA:

1. Make sense of big data –  Big data will continue to get a lot of press, and vendors will be keen to show off new tricks with data integration. The enterprise architecture teams need to beef up their information architecture capability and develop appropriate Enterprise Patterns to participate in this debate and to be able to respond intelligently to this pressure.

2. Mobilize for mobile – The EA team need to expand application patterns to show how a multitude of disparate apps work in conjunction with a more traditional legacy application landscape.

3. The forecast is cloudy – Cloud computing and XXX-as-a-service will continue to stake their claim in the enterprise architecture. Enterprise architects need to start shifting their thoughts up a layer. As well as having an infrastructure architecture response, they need to consider the business architecture impact and opportunities.