A key indicator of EA success is the maturity of the EA program. More than half of organizations score lower than Level 3 in ITScore.
These EA programs fail to achieve the benefits of EA due to a low maturity level and the lack of a structured approach to improving program maturity. In this research, we discuss the dimensions that influence the maturity of an EA program and, hence, the success of that program.
The maturity classifications and dimensions described here have been implemented in a formal assessment tool. Gartner's ITScore maturity assessment for EA programs is a diagnostic tool used to:
Describe key indicators that successful EA programs exhibit
Benchmark against best practices
Identify the key constraints that inhibit EA success
Determine the target EA program maturity for the next iteration of the continuous-improvement cycle
Focus EA program development efforts on the highest-value activities
EA Maturity Levels
Gartner has defined five levels of an EA maturity with respect to business engagement (see Figure 1). The five levels of the EA maturity model are:
Level 1: Initial —
No formal EA program is in place, or an EA program is just getting started. At this level of maturity, business buy-in and the ability to balance competing interests in the enterprise are, at best, rudimentary. EA work is usually confined to the IT organization.
Level 2: Developing —
An EA program is in place, but is working poorly due to weaknesses in several dimensions of maturity. For enterprises at this level, the EA program is struggling to become successful and is inhibited by a lack of maturity in multiple key aspects of the program.
Level 3: Defined —
An EA program is in place and delivering value to the business. Companies at this level have many of the basics right. However, these companies have not put repeatable and managed processes in place to ensure long-term success and to balance competing interests.
Level 4: Managed —
The EA program is delivering value and is repeatable. The program in enterprises at this level is running like a "well-oiled machine" and consistently has a positive impact on the organization.
Level 5: Optimizing —
This level indicates that an organization has achieved a high level of maturity. Today, few enterprises have reached this level of EA commitment in the business and the IT organization.
EA Maturity Levels
Source: Gartner (March 2012)
Dimensions of EA Maturity
Companies that are successful with EA are able to surmount cultural, organizational and political divisions, and achieve broad consensus across the various lines of business and IT. However, this cannot be achieved overnight and requires a stepwise approach. Although the product of the EA effort is important, the structure of the EA program is the primary determinant of success.
We have defined eight dimensions that are indicative of an EA program's maturity. These dimensions are:
Stakeholder support and communications.
The involvement and support of the primary stakeholders for EA are critical to program maturity. These stakeholders include senior management; key people in the various lines of business; IT managers (including those from application development, operations and technical support); and members of the wider EA community, including business strategists, business analysts and IT solution architects/designers. A key element in fostering support for EA is clear communication of the EA, where the communication approach is tailored to meet the needs of different stakeholder groups. Without this broad-based stakeholder involvement and support, EA risks being perceived as an "ivory tower" exercise that is out of touch with business reality.
The unique talents and skills that a successful enterprise architect must possess are in short supply. Organizations are realizing that it is difficult to find suitable candidates, and they are focusing on developing and training enterprise architects from the talent pool within the organization. It is also important for architects in complex and sophisticated environments to have tools that will help them understand the range of assets of interest, how these assets relate to one another and how they relate to the business strategy. EA tools should also facilitate communication of this information with key stakeholders.
EA development method.
A mature EA development process should be well-defined, clearly articulated and executed pragmatically. Further, the EA definition process is iterative in two ways. First, relatively small sections of the EA are progressively selected and defined. The selected areas should deliver a mix of near-term and long-term business outcomes. In subsequent iterations, the scope of this work is continuously expanded. Second, once the EA has been defined, it should be continually reviewed and updated, if necessary, to provide for continuous improvement and currency.
EA is not an island. Mature EA programs are integrated into many other processes within the organization to provide the appropriate direction, support and compliance. EA programs that are disconnected from other key business and IT processes will never reach their full potential.
EA provides guidance and information on the impact of business change on the organization. Typically, this is achieved through the formal documentation of the change drivers, a reference architecture that guides the changes, the current-state EA, the future-state EA and, most importantly, a number of analysis deliverables that describe the requirements for change and the road maps for implementing those changes through projects that form a formal gap closure program. The development of EA deliverables is core to EA maturity.
Disclosure and compliance.
Projects are the vehicle to implement change in organizations. To be effective, EA requires visibility into the projects that are planned or under way, and oversight of those projects to ensure they are compliant with EA. This is normally achieved through the implementation of consistent project initiation and EA assurance processes with appropriate decision-making authority and well-defined disclosure, compliance and waiver processes.
EA is a multidisciplinary undertaking, and the value of EA is not always obvious to many people in the organization. Mature EA programs have a defined set of metrics that clearly indicate the achievements of EA in relation to program objectives. EA metrics provide a key input to the ongoing communication activities that ultimately influence stakeholder perceptions.
The perceived value of the EA program can be more important than the value that is measurable through metrics. EA stakeholders will form opinions on the value of EA from multiple sources, not all of which are within the control of the EA team. Taking the pulse of the perceived value of EA can provide an early warning of the pending loss of support of the EA program and allow the EA team to adjust as necessary to improve the stakeholders' perceived value of the EA program.
Assessing EA Maturity
Since its introduction in 2010, Gartner's ITScore for EA has been used by more than 250 organizations.
It enables users to self-assess the maturity of EA using an online diagnostic tool, providing a standard approach for determining the maturity of the EA program in your organization. It also provides insights into the areas of weakness and opportunities for improvement. The tool can be used to benchmark your program against your industry or the state of EA practice across industries and around the world. The EA maturity tool can also be used to communicate the need for investments in program improvement. It provides a useful tool for having a fact-based discussion on program maturity, which can help to overcome the political and cultural issues that may be preventing EA program development.
Understanding an EA program's maturity level is of little use unless it is a starting point for change. Adopt the following steps to improve the maturity of your EA program:
Assess the current state.
To increase maturity levels, an enterprise must understand how it is positioned. When using ITScore for EA, practitioners should first answer the questions about the program describing the current level of maturity.
Analyze critical constraints.
This analysis identifies those factors in the enterprise and its environment that constrain the success of the EA program. In many cases, the maturity of the EA program is unbalanced across the various dimensions listed above. For example, having a well-developed set of EA deliverables will not ensure a positive impact unless the deliverables are supported by an appropriate EA assurance process to ensure projects are compliant. The critical constraints analysis works to identify the program deficiencies that are holding back the EA program from reaching its full potential.
Set maturity targets.
Once the critical constraints are identified, maturity target setting defines specific goals for improvement. The maturity target is not a "blue sky" activity; it must be grounded in reality, with a recognition of business priorities, required resources, program change capacity, and prevailing enterprise culture and maturity. It must also be associated with a specific future time frame. Figure 2 shows an example of a map illustrating the differences between current and desired maturity levels.
Current and Target Maturity Level Map
Source: Gartner (March 2012)
Improvement planning identifies the gaps between the current and the desired future states, and the coherent actions that are required to complete the gap plan. The program improvement plan must define the improvement projects that will be undertaken to fulfill the plan. The improvement plan defines the necessary details (for example, scope, objectives, deliverables, resources, costs and schedule) needed to initiate the improvement project.
Continuously improve the EA program.
As with other key activities, a continuous-improvement program should be put in place for EA, as shown in Figure 2. Gartner recommends reviewing EA maturity and improvement goals on at least an annual basis.
Understand your current maturity level, and use this as a foundation to increase EA program maturity. Achieving higher levels of maturity is not an end in itself. Rather, higher EA maturity will lead to improvements in the strategic alignment and use of IT. Also, understanding of the current level of EA maturity enables organizations to recognize how this maturity level constrains what can be achieved and to set expectations accordingly.
Organizations are not static. Investment in EA may ebb and flow over years, which can sometimes result in a move backward on the path to higher levels of maturity. Acquisitions can also have a significant impact on EA maturity. Organizations that are improving EA maturity will see a step change pattern in program improvements. The EA maturity tool should be used periodically to determine current-state maturity and make knowledgeable decisions about how to invest in program development in the future.