On EA 'owners' and primitives

One more item from the Michael Ellyett conversation, and then I really must back to some of my other work! 🙂

The starter was again one of my perhaps not so well thought-through throwaway lines:

identifying the owners via the primitives also identifies the stakeholders who need to be engaged in the respective architectural reviews…

and Michael Ellyett’s response:

Well as discussed I think primitives are potentially useful intellectual concept. But business people are not interested in intellectual concept – they are interested in implementations i.e. composites. So I think columns need to be able to deal with useful abstract concepts (that one call primitives) and real world things.

Yeah, but there’s another twist here, in which business folks definitely are interested: namely “who’s responsible for this whatever-it-is?”. In other words, who are the stakeholders for any given entity.

What I was after here is that each row, column and segment – and, ultimately, the entire framework – is assigned to an ‘owner’: in other words a person who’s responsible and accountable for that entire category of entity. We then override this responsibility by assigning more explicit ‘ownerships’ as we move further and further towards the concrete: process-owner, business-rule owner, data-server owner and so on. The result is that there’s always someone who is responsible and accountable for every entity – even if it’s the CEO (or equivalent), who by definition is the ‘owner’ of the overall framework and hence has ultimate responsibility for everything.

This is valuable because it forces us to look more closely at responsibilities. It’s easy to see that CIO, for example, has overall responsible for data – the ‘Asset » virtual’ column and segment – and the CFO has the ‘Asset » financial’ segment, whilst HR, sales and marketing would divide up the ‘Asset » relational’ segment between them. But who’s responsible for business-events (Zachman’s ‘When’ column)? for capabilities (Zachman’s ‘Who’)? for virtual locations? for overall time-management? We do the same vertically, too, with the Zachman rows: the ‘owner’ at the ‘Implement’ and ‘Operations’ levels (Zachman’s row 5 and 6) is likely to be the COO, whilst the strategy-team would have the responsibility up at the row-2 ‘Business’ level, presumably under the direction of the CEO.

So as we build linkages of primitives into composites, and between levels, and between requirements and the services and assets and activities that implement those requirements, we also build linkages of relationship between owners. This means that if a new piece of legislation comes along, we know straight away who the stakeholders are, all the way down from strategy to operations. If some server or router or other piece of equipment fails, we can tell straight away not just what is affected, but who is affected up at the business-level – in other words, whose productivity and performance bonuses are going to be hit, and are going to be pretty unhappy about it if we don’t let them know in time to work out a dispensation or work-around. If we want to improve effectiveness, we know which stakeholders we need to negotiate with; ditto as we expand our attention outward in trying to resolve some business ‘pain-point’. And so on: the stakeholders for every aspect of everyday enterprise-architecture.

There’s always an ‘owner’: in architecture, in change-management, we need to know exactly who that is, every step of the way.

So this ain’t abstract at all: or rather, this is a way to use the abstract to tackle a real, concrete everyday problem right at the heart of everyday business.

Much the same applies to compliance: we need a similar mechanism to ‘inherit’ compliance-levels from the underlying primitives upward into their derived composites, and so on.

So what I’m doing here, with all this apparent futzing around at the root of the meta-meta-meta- (choose your depth) level, is looking for a way to embed this kind of functionality right at the root of the enterprise architecture repository and such-like, so it’s available to us every step of the way as we move outward towards the concrete. Kinda crazy, I know, but someone’s gotta do it… 🙂

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