Marco Halen (Aalto University, Finland) is an interesting character. Like me, he came to research after a successful business career—in his case via information technology. He was the CIO of a major company before he embarked on a PhD recently, and his subject expertise is enterprise architecture.
Marco's paper was enlightening. He said that enterprise architecture is not well understood, but that those that do have a view think it has or is something to do with the IT department. From my very basic understanding, enterprise architecture is something that is discussed amongst IT-types and that it lacks any real credibility beyond the technical departments of companies.
Halen asserted that enterprise architecture (EA) can be valuable to business, if it is reconceptualised as a bridge that spans between corporate purpose and strategy, and technology and information systems. However, any move towards effectiveness requires leadership. The CIO, who is commonly the 'owner' of EA, needs to work hard to reposition EA from an IT framework to a business framework; one that exists for the sole purpose of supporting and enabling strategy implementation.
The unanswered question is how? The board and the executive of most companies are busy people. Proposals to implement yet another framework are unlikely to gain any tangible traction or support unless they demonstrably advance the business towards the achievement of its goals and objectives. Halen implied that the CIO needs to take a deep breath, learn a new language (of business); begin speaking in terms of strategy and performance; release EA to business executives; and reposition the EA experts as service providers to business (cf. fiefdom builders and cost centres).
Halen's preliminary work is interesting, in that it provides a solid base from which to develop some alternative models; do some empirical research; test some ideas; and, potentially, improve business performance. If EA can be reconceptualised as a bridge as Halen proposes, then it stands a chance of becoming adopted more widely as a useful management tool. If not, the most likely outcome is that EA will be consigned to the scrap heap of esoteric ideas that have emerged from the IT department—solutions looking for a problem. I look forward to seeing how Halen develops his ideas.
Thoughts on corporate governance, strategy and effective board practice; our place in the world; and, other things that catch my attention.