‘Only 10 percent of business strategy ever gets executed’

by Abhinna Shreshtha    Sep 16, 2010

Enterprise ArchitectureAs technology is developing, IT systems are getting more and more complex and difficult to manage. A concept called enterprise architecture, which has been around for years, endeavors to provide guidelines on how this complexity can be better managed. In an interaction with CXOtoday, Sunil Dutt Jha, practicing enterprise architect and CEO of iCMG shares his thoughts on the concept of enterprise architecture

Enterprise architecture (EA) has been around for more than two decades. What is its acceptance today?
The concept of management was first put forward by Peter Drucker; however, just management is not enough, we need a more holistic model, especially with IT systems increasing in complexity. This is where the idea of enterprise architecture comes in. Interest and adoption is steadily increasing and in the last ten years we have seen people showing a lot of interest in the EA, which means that people are realizing its importance.

In fact, the US has a law called the Clinger-Cohen Act, which mandates development and maintenance of enterprise architectures by federal agencies. This resulted in the US adopting the federal enterprise architecture (FEA) framework in 1999 to provide a common methodology for federal bodies to manage and acquire IT assets.

What is the scenario in India?
Things are changing in our country too. Seven years ago, there were no dedicated roles like chief enterprise architect (CEA). Recently, we have seen organizations creating such roles within the company. Some of them are doing a pretty good job when it comes to enterprise architecture. Of course, these are still initial days and on working with organizations, we find that they are unable to adopt everything we tell them; still it’s good to see this kind of initiative in the country.

To elucidate the kind of work that remains to be done, we recently held an EA excellence awards in India, where we have a category called the ‘Zachmann Innovation Award’ for the most creative use of EA within the organization. Unfortunately, the jury felt they haven’t seen the kind of work that meets the criteria for the award.

Which sectors in India have shown a keen interest in the concept?

The early adopters have been the BFSI and telecom sectors. This is not surprising, considering that the main drivers behind enterprise architecture are rate of change and growing complexity. Both these sectors have grown rapidly in the past few years and are big users of IT. So, in the telecom sector, EA allows you to save costs on overlapping systems and workforce. It enables you to identify redundant processes and systems – all of which are very important when you want to create a leaner enterprise, especially with the cut-throat competition in the sector.

How do you differentiate between service oriented architecture (SOA) and EA? Are not they the same thing?
SOA is an instance of an architecture element. The fact remains that enterprises have existed before SOA and will continue to exist even after. In fact, people are now talking about business-oriented architecture, which may one day replace SOA!
The biggest challenge before enterprises today is that only 10 percent of strategy ever reaches the execution stage.
How do you define aspects that are independent of IT? This is what every manager faces and these are things EA attempts to address.

As per one of the recent trends, CIOs double up as strategy officers too. In your opinion, where should strategy be dictated from – the business side or the IT side?
CEOs are mainly managers, so are CIOs. If you conduct a survey you will find that most of the CEOs do not have a long term plan. We need CEOs who understand the system and processes. IT, an indispensable part of any organization, is very important for its success. The significance will only increase with time.

However, IT, in the end, is an enabler of business. Technology’s responsibility should be to make the job of the business management simpler while providing it with new methods of becoming more competitive.

Tell us something about your operations in India.
With nearly 45 percent of our revenue coming India, it is a very important market for us. We are currently working with a few banks, which are looking to expand in the rural areas. The government sector is another area where we are trying to expand. Depending on the kind of project, it can last between 12 weeks to 12 months.

We work with some of the large ITeS companies in India to jointly go-to-market. We are also involved in tie-ups and partnerships with IT companies to expand our base.

EA seems to be a very specialized field. How are you able to recruit the right kind of people?
Recruitment is a big challenge for us in India. We normally approach people who have had prior experience in the industry. It’s not necessary that they have to be from an IT background, though IT knowledge is beneficial; but they should have extensive domain knowledge. We have our own internal process to certify people as enterprise architects, which normally takes around three years. The evaluations are pretty stringent, with only 10 percent of the total applicants clearing the evaluation process and less than 2 percent reaching the last stage.

Though Jha might still be optimistic about enterprise architecture, the fact is that even after twenty years it still has yet to become mainstream. The high level of expertise required for EA is scarce. Even the US’s plans to implement EA has been running into hurdles, this leads us to the question - do industry bodies have a role to play in making EA successful?