Enterprise architecture (EA) is a key strategic initiative, as the majority of practitioners have shifted their focus to their business's strategic vision, not focusing on the IT organization alone, according to Gartner, Inc. These and other key issues facing the Enterprise Architecture industry will be discussed at the upcoming Gartner Enterprise Architecture Summits on May 9-10 in London, and June 22-23 in San Diego.

By 2016, 30 percent of EA efforts will be supported as a collaboration between business and IT, up from 9 percent in early 2011.

"The discipline of EA has passed a tipping point where practitioners are moving beyond applying EA to IT alone, either in aspiration or in actions," said Betsy Burton, vice president and distinguished analyst at Gartner. "We are finding that the majority of EA practitioners are aspiring to leverage EA to enable business value, growth and transformation, not only to drive IT decisions. While this has been a vision for EA for many for years, we are now hearing many clients clearly voice this same vision and aspiration of EA."

As with many traditional IT practices, the discipline of EA has been gradually evolving for several years to become more closely integrated and aligned with business strategy. However, there are several trends, in particular, that have helped to spur this evolution, including:

  • An increased ability for business users to lead and make technology decisions, with or without IT
  • A continued CIO view that IT strategies must be closely related to the business's strategic priorities
  • Increased management pressure on EA to demonstrate business value, due to the economic downturn
  • Continued growth and emergence of several new practices and disciplines that are focused on enabling EA practitioners to better communicate and collaborate with business leaders
"Enterprise architects need to assess their own aspirations, their senior management's expectations for EA and the type of IT service management (ITSM) they are operating under in order to understand the opportunities and constraints on their ability to collaborate with business leaders," said Philip Allega, research vice president at Gartner.

Given the current focus for EA, organizations will increasingly support their EA efforts with people reporting into different parts of the organization (business and IT). Gartner analysts said a virtual reporting structure is fine, as long as team members are all working together, based on a shared vision and charter, and are being measured based on this shared vision. It is important to have one person working as the chief architect-guiding, facilitating and leading the virtual team on a coordinated effort.

"If your organization is still thinking about EA as an IT-only discipline or developing an IT-focused guidance, you are in the minority of your peers. If you are not actively seeking to engage with business leaders and focusing EA on your business strategy, you are in the minority of your peers," Burton said. "Organizations that do not focus EA on their business strategy and on collaborating with business leaders will be greatly limited in their ability to deliver substantial business value. To achieve business outcomes and to drive business change, EA value must be collaboratively developed and supported within the context of the business direction, strategy and future vision."