Not long ago, I was asked an interesting question about our Enterprise Architecture team.  The question was “Does Microsoft provide the internal support to create an excellent Enterprise Architecture program?”

The answer is “yes” but it got me thinking: what qualifies as “excellent?”  That term is subjective.  In our business, what does it mean to be “excellent” and how might that differ from another business?

Excellent, to me, means that the effort is tailored to the needs of the business.  That includes business strategy, business structure, and corporate culture.  Our business, in Microsoft, is the business of developing and distributing software.  We are pretty good at it, although we have our critics.  

So our EA program is just that: tailored to the needs of Microsoft.  We don’t do more than Microsoft needs, or less than Microsoft demands.  We push the envelope, as change agents and thought leaders, but we don’t crimp creativity… let’s face it: we make money on applied creativity.  If one idea out of 1,000 makes money, we earn back the investment.  It’s a unique space to try to operate an EA program in.  We are excellent, but probably not typical.

I can only conjecture about what “excellent” would look like in another company.  We pay industry analysts and attend conferences, just like many of you do.  Part of the reason: to listen and learn about how practitioners in different companies do what they do.  Basically, we are trying to find out how our peers describe excellence for their own enterprise.

How do you define excellence?  Are you there yet?