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Gartner says enterprise architecture will be mostly 'blended' by 2015

Rob Barry

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One approach does not fit all and depending on the business needs and strategy, they could take two or more.
Julie Short
AnalystGartner
Enterprise architects need to be more open-minded about approaching their jobs with different strategies, said Julie Short, analyst at Gartner Inc. Gartner predicts that by 2015, 95% of organizations will support multiple approaches to enterprise architecture (EA). This means architects may find an increasing need to give over their own personal EA styles to the needs of the business.

What does it mean to take a blended approach to EA? Gartner has singled out four methodologies that it says are becoming increasingly blurred: traditional, middle-out, managed diversity and federated.

"What we have found through survey results is that 65% of companies are already taking a blended approach," said Gartner's Short. "One approach does not fit all and depending on the business needs and strategy, they could take two or more."

The "traditional" approach to enterprise architecture focuses on tightly governed projects that look to keep decisions aligned with a master plan. In this approach, top-down projects revolve around specific business requirements. Traditional EA works well in organizations with strong centralized leadership, Short said.

"Where you run into problems is where the business requirements become more and more complex." she said. "You can't just easily separate out infrastructure from the information." In the "middle-out" approach, strong centralized governance is replaced with a small but rigidly enforced set of standards for things like interface, formats and protocols. Project teams are given more freedom with the application code as long as the end product delivers the desired results. Short said this approach tends to work in organizations where business units, partners and suppliers are not under direct control of the EA team.

A "managed diversity" architecture gives even more freedom to project teams. Instead of a single standard that is rigidly enforced, a team can pick the technology it sees fit from a veritable menu of options. This, Short said, can be quite costly and is "just short of anarchy." She said that while this style isn't incredibly common, it is seen in media and entertainment industries.

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Finally, the "federated" style of enterprise architecture comes in at large, complex organizations where decision making is often decentralized. Short said this approach, common in financial services, has the EA team focusing on common infrastructure elements that all business units share, while leaving more distinct elements at a unit's own discretion. You see this style in markets prone to mergers and acquisitions, such as financial services, Short said. It would not be as effective in a more homogeneous enterprise.

These four approaches to enterprise architecture have distinct strengths and weaknesses, but are increasingly being blended together to better meet business needs. Too keep up, many enterprise architects need to complement their technical skills with soft interpersonal skills like negotiation and political acumen, said Short, who will discuss recent findings at the Gartner Enterprise Applications Summit 2010 next week in London.

"Open-minded is the first thing they have to be," Short said. "And this whole idea of control is really an illusion. You don't control anybody or anything. You can influence them, but you can't control."


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