ITScore Overview for Enterprise Architecture


Archived Published: 13 July 2015 ID: G00281215

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Summary

Gartner's ITScore maturity assessment for enterprise architecture assesses EA maturity at five levels, based on eight major dimensions of an EA practice. This research examines our five-level framework for enterprise architecture teams to use in determining EA maturity.

Overview

Key Findings

  • Enterprise architecture (EA) practice maturity, including the constraints under which it operates, is a key indicator of its effectiveness. Enterprises must understand their maturity level, identify their weaknesses, set achievable goals and progressively remove the barriers to success.

  • Gartner has defined five levels in our EA maturity model: nonexistent, reactive, functioning, integrated and ubiquitous.

  • Progress along these five levels is defined based on the following eight dimensions of EA practice maturity: stakeholder support and involvement, team resources, architecture development method, organizational integration, deliverables, EA governance, metrics, and stakeholder perceptions.

  • Achieving higher levels of maturity is not an end in itself. Rather, higher EA maturity will lead to improvements in strategic alignment and effective business change.

Recommendations

  • Conduct a maturity assessment using Gartner's ITScore for Enterprise Architecture online tool.

  • Use the results of that assessment to understand how the discipline of EA is implemented in your organization.

  • Update your ITScore, and compare it to previous scores to determine ongoing EA maturity in your organization.

Analysis

World-class enterprise architecture (EA) practices don't happen by chance; they have to be built methodically over time. In Gartner's experience, it often takes 18 months to two years to get the EA practice up and running, and another one to two years after that to develop and refine it. 1 During that time, a guide is needed to help gauge where along that journey an organization is, and what elements need to be built out. This is where Gartner's ITScore 2 for EA comes in.

A "mature" organization has fully developed its operating model to be successful in delivering its business outcomes. In Gartner's ITScore for EA, we define the EA operating model as having eight "dimensions," which are discussed later. Naturally, each organization is at a different stage along the journey to maturity of its EA practice, and the ITScore for EA defines five "levels" of maturity.

The value of using a maturity model lies in the ability to shape a development roadmap for the EA practice, and not in the score itself. By considering each dimension in turn, what elements are needed to move to the next level and where the opportunities for development are, EA practitioners shape a meaningful roadmap. As every organization is different, what form this takes will vary depending on the business outcomes the organization is driving and the opportunities for EA to add business value. The ITScore for EA provides a guide to what elements should be considered to raise the organization's maturity, and the development roadmap must be thoughtfully designed to meet the organization's needs.

The EA Practice Develops Over Time

Organizations that grow the EA practice organically will typically go through three main developmental phases:

  • Providing technology guidance — Throughout much of its evolution, EA has focused on technology architecture helping resolve issues such as reducing complexity, simplifying the underlying technologies and guiding development decisions. As organizations expanded their use of technology across all areas of the business, doing this in a controlled way was a key concern.

  • Delivering business outcomes — Since 2011, the EA practice has evolved to focus on the foundational enterprise architect role to enable those in that role to help their organizations deliver business outcomes by (1) providing a structured approach to executing the organization's business strategy, (2) delivering the business outcomes that underpin that strategy, and (3) aligning IT organizational resources and effort with the strategy.

  • Supporting digital business — A more recent concern for almost every organization is "digital business" — harnessing the opportunities of innovative new technologies to create new business opportunities, such as new products and services or ways of operating the business. The EA practice is evolving, building on its business-outcome-driven base to include the vanguard enterprise architect role that incorporates new models and approaches to support organizations' digital business efforts.

Each of these phases builds on the one before and adds new models, approaches and perspectives to it. Business-outcome-driven EA forms the foundation for the practice of EA, from which comes the credibility and ability to support digital business. For many organizations, providing technology guidance remains a key concern, but this too must flow from the business strategy and business outcomes. The ITScore for EA reflects the typical evolution of EA, with world-class organizations aiming to build a business-outcome-driven EA practice and then move to incorporate support for digital business. It is important to note that while this organic growth process is typical, it is not the only path. Some organizations may choose to jump-start the EA practice by engaging a consulting organization or hiring very experienced enterprise architects.

Continuously Improve Your EA Practice

The ITScore for EA is developed from Gartner's ongoing research into the practice of EA and our close observation of world-class EA practices. The model should be used as part of an organization's regular assessment of its EA practice to identify opportunities for improvement and shape developmental roadmaps. It is not intended to be "the answer," but rather to provoke discussion and thought within the EA team and with its stakeholders and sponsors. The ITScore is also a useful starting point for discussions with our analyst team, which can help guide your journey to become a world-class EA practice.

Overview of Maturity Levels or Phases

The ITScore for EA identified five levels of maturity of an EA practice:

  • Level 1: Nonexistent No formal EA practice is in place, or an EA practice is just getting started. Few individuals within the organization would be able to identify any formal EA practice or activities. Any enterprise architecture work is done informally and most often undocumented.

  • Level 2: Reactive An EA practice is in place that is often focused on ad hoc technical issues within initiatives and projects. Architectural work is predominantly reactive to address pain points in the organization, rather than being a proactive approach linked to a future-state vision.

  • Level 3: Functioning A business-outcome-driven EA practice is in place that is delivering value to the business and supporting the delivery of key business outcomes. Organizations at this level have many of the basics right and are effective in the role of foundational enterprise architects. However, they have not put repeatable and managed processes in place to ensure long-term success and to balance competing interests.

  • Level 4: Integrated The EA practice is delivering value and is repeatable; the role of vanguard enterprise architect has been introduced; and elements of the organization's digital business strategy are being supported, building on the platform of business-outcome-driven EA. The EA practice is delivering business outcomes, and the EA team is seen as competent and professional and adding value to the organization as whole.

  • Level 5: Ubiquitous Enterprise architecture has become a natural way of working for the organization as a whole. The models and approaches of EA are widely adopted and used. The EA practice has evolved to support the organization's digital business strategy, incorporating new models and approaches.

Figure 1 shows key milestones for each of these maturity levels.

Figure 1. EA Maturity Levels
Research image courtesy of Gartner, Inc.

Source: Gartner (July 2015)

As a general rule, EA practices become stable and add business value once they reach Level 3, Functioning. From here, it usually takes a little time for the EA practice to become widely accepted and adopted, as the EA practice evolves to support digital business strategy. In developing a roadmap for the EA practice, it is tempting to see Level 3, Functioning, as the end goal. Gartner's experience is that stretch goals are needed and that the majority of companies with world-class EA are at Level 4, Integrated.

Dimensions of the ITScore for EA Model

Based on our research and close observation of world-class EA practices, we identified eight "dimensions" that underpin the maturity model:

  • Stakeholder Support and Involvement. Business-outcome-driven EA is a highly collaborative effort involving a wide range of stakeholders from across the organization, from business executives to project managers. The involvement and support of these stakeholders is critical to the success of the EA practice. Relationships must be built and maintained, and stakeholders must be actively involved in the practice of EA.

  • Team Resources. EA demands a wide range of competencies, ranging from relationship building and problem solving through to deep technical skills. The EA team needs to recruit and develop individuals across the different EA viewpoints (business, information, technical and solution). The EA practice also requires a team sized to suit the demands placed on it, and provided with the right tools and management processes to support it.

  • Architecture Development Method. Business-outcome-driven EA focuses on business strategies and goals to determine the most important business outcomes to address, then creates the subset of EA deliverables required to achieve the business outcomes. A clear, well-defined and coherent development method is needed to support the efficient development of the architecture and its deliverables.

  • Organizational Integration. Mature EA practices are integrated into many other processes within the organization to provide the appropriate direction, support and compliance. Business-outcome-driven EA complements other organizational processes such as capital budgeting, investment appraisal and project portfolio management.

  • Deliverables. Business-outcome-driven EA creates a set of deliverables that support organizational decision making and action at each stage of the EA life cycle. These deliverables are tailored to suit the needs of the organization and the outcomes it is driving, and range from business capability models to solution architectures.

  • EA Governance. Business-outcome-driven EA is a highly collaborative endeavor, involving stakeholders from across the organization. The governance model brings these stakeholders together to collaborate in the practice and delivery of EA, and to provide oversight to the EA practice as a whole.

  • Metrics. Metrics are needed to ensure that the EA practice is delivering value to the organization and the business outcomes it is driving. The metrics are used as part of the governance model, and to drive continuous improvement of the EA practice itself. EA metrics take two forms — quantitative, linked to the business outcomes it is helping drive, and qualitative, measuring the perceptions of its stakeholders.

  • Stakeholder Perceptions. The perceived value of the EA practice can be more important than the value that is measurable through metrics. Equally, the value of EA is only what is perceived by the EA stakeholders, not by the EA team itself. The EA team must adjust as necessary to improve the stakeholders' perceived value of the EA practice.

Summary of Changes

Our aim has been to keep the assessment similar to previous years, but to update it to reflect changes in the state of the EA practice. The implication of this for ITScore users is that the results from the 2015 version will not be directly comparable to any previous versions of the assessment. The changes introduced in the 2015 version of ITScore for Enterprise Architecture include:

  • Addition of eight questions focusing on digital business

  • Edit of scoring to reflect the impact of digital business on EA maturity

  • Update of research notes and guidance

How to Use This Assessment

Since its introduction in 2010, Gartner's ITScore for EA has been used by more than 1,000 organizations. It enables users to assess the maturity of EA using an online diagnostic tool that provides a standard approach for determining the maturity of the EA practice in your organization. It also provides insights into the areas of weakness and opportunities for improvement. The tool can be used to benchmark your practice 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 practice improvement, and provides a useful tool for having a fact-based discussion on practice maturity, which can help to overcome the political and cultural issues that may be preventing EA practice development. See Note 1 for recommendations for federated EA organizations and multiple ITScore assessments.

Understanding an EA practice's maturity level is of little use, unless it is a starting point for change. Enterprises should adopt the following steps to improve the maturity of their EA practice:

  • Understand your business goals and vision for EA. Before doing any maturity assessment, it is important to understand your business need and focus for EA. One way of doing this is to understand your stakeholders' expectations for EA maturity in the future (three to five years). Another way is to understand your stakeholders' expectations of EA in terms of focus and scope (see "Toolkit: Determine Your Business Vision for EA" ).

  • 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 practice describing the current level of maturity.

  • Analyze critical constraints. This analysis identifies factors in the enterprise and its environment that constrain the success of the EA practice. In many cases, the maturity of the EA practice 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 architecture assurance process to ensure that projects are compliant. The analysis of the critical constraints works to identify the practice deficiencies that are holding back the EA practice 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, practice change capacity, and prevailing enterprise culture and maturity. Enterprise architects should use the enterprise context deliverable to maintain proper focus. It must also be associated with a specific future time frame. Figure 2 shows an example of a map, illustrating the differences between the current (blue) and target (red) maturity levels.

  • Plan improvements. Improvement planning identifies the gaps between the current and the desired future states, and the coherent actions required to fill these gaps. The practice 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 practice. As with other key activities, a continuous-improvement practice should be put in place for EA. Gartner recommends reviewing EA maturity and improvement goals on at least an annual basis.

Figure 2. Current and Target Maturity Level Map
Research image courtesy of Gartner, Inc.

Source: Gartner (July 2015)

Enterprises should understand their current maturity level and use this as a foundation to increase EA practice maturity. Achieving higher levels of maturity is not an end in itself. Rather, higher EA maturity will enable the realization of the many benefits of EA. Also, understanding 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 practice improvements. The EA maturity tool should be used periodically to determine current-state maturity and make knowledgeable decisions about how to invest in practice development in the future.

Gartner Recommended Reading

Evidence

Note 1
Recommendations for Federated EA Organization and Multiple ITScore Assessments

  • It is best to fill out an individual ITScore for each business unit with an EA function. Because the responsibility for EA is split between business units and the group level, each EA team should be assessed as a stand-alone unit, as maturity will inevitably vary between business units.

  • It is not recommended for multiple constituents (for example, individual EA team members) to each complete an ITScore survey. Often, organizations will assume that creating an average from multiple individual surveys is a useful exercise. In fact, it is not. ITScore is designed to be a fact-based assessment, and there is only one set of facts. The best way to use the input from multiple constituents is to collaboratively complete the ITScore — coming up with a consensus answer for each of the questions. This accomplishes two goals: (1) people who have knowledge gaps of the actual state of the practice will have those gaps filled through the discussion; and (2) the consensus answers provide a single ITScore that we can evaluate, review for critical constraints, and provide specific advice for how to improve the practice.

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