Barriers to Agility in Architecture

Last week I read a great blog by Forrester’s Brian Hopkins entitled Agility And What’s Keeping You From It. In it, Brian cites Forrester research that says while 45% of IT rate their ability to accommodate business change positively, only 30% of business respondents felt the same way.

No Agility without Agile Architecture

Enterprise architects know the score.  According to Brian, only 21% of enterprise architects in Forrester’s 2011 State of EA Survey reported being even modestly agile.

Brian identifies three barriers can get in the way of agility in architecture:

  • “Brittle processes and legacy systems – we all know it this one; the current state mess of processes that cannot adapt to change and legacy systems where everything is connected to everything else, so even the smallest changes have broad impacts.Techniques to overcome this barrier include partitioning the problem into digestible pieces to show incremental progress and short term payoff.
  • Victim mentality – frequently when I talk to IT personnel I hear, “the business doesn’t know what it wants”, or “the business doesn’t understand what it takes to build solutions.” The story is the same when I talk to the business, “IT is too slow. I don’t understand why they take so long” or “I don’t deal with IT if I don’t have to.” People get too busy pointing fingers to act quickly, or too focused on their own pain to address it organizationally. Frequently this is coupled with a feeling of accountability without visibility or authority. Techniques to overcome this barrier include developing joint accountability, and simple shared principles that align stakeholders.
  • The quest for bullet proof solutions – as EAs, we are paid to create enterprise solutions which we design to have all kinds of qualities such a recoverability, robustness, etc. Often the driving quality requirement is agility, yet we only know one trick – make it bullet proof. Frequently this is caused by an aversion to risk, and conversation about failure avoidance rather than risk and reward. Overcoming this barrier includes techniques for managing risk including use of architecture zones and empowering decision rights and accountability to promote better risk taking.”

I have been architecting enterprise systems for over 20 years. This list of barriers is a good as any.

So Now What?

As architects, the key question is what are we going to do about it?

Do we continue to accept these excuses or do we find ways to move ahead in spite of them?

I know where I stand.  And I know what I recommend to help enterprises overcome these barriers; data virtualization. That’s because business agility is the primary business value data virtualization provides.

You can see for yourself by reviewing the ten enterprises profiled in the recently published Data Virtualization: Going Beyond Traditional Data Integration to Achieve Business Agility and learning about their agility improvements.

Brian’s Data Virtualization Reaches Critical Mass provides similar successes.

Make it so!

2 Responses to Barriers to Agility in Architecture

  1. Andrew Sturt says:

    I think a lot of DV work is done by DW/BI teams, which—if they are agile—are typically small, interdisciplinary teams. Such teams are great at being agile, but they may still end up being bottlenecks. How do we avoid that?

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