Disappointed at EA ‘business as usual’

Spent Thursday at the Troux Directions conference in London, hosted by Troux, one of the leading vendors of toolsets for for enterprise architecture. A good day in many ways, yet overall I’ll admit I did come away feeling more than a bit disappointed.

Troux seems more advanced in their thinking than some of the other big-name vendors, but still a strong sense of stuck in business-as-usual. Given that EA has been so ‘poisoned’ by the TOGAF types and worse, clinging desperately to their delusions of an IT-centric world, Troux have tried to re-badge their offering as ‘strategic IT planning’: but in reality it’s still same-old-same-old. Firstly it’s ‘planning’: yet as they themselves freely admitted, we can’t plan any more – the world we deal with now is too complicated and too dynamic for that. Secondly, it’s still hopelessly IT-centric: ’nuff said, really… And thirdly, they still have not even begun to grasp the bald fact that in the present-day business climate, ‘enterprise’ and ‘organisation’ are no longer the same thing.

I can understand their dilemma: they need to sell to single organisations – because that’s where the budgets come from – but what they’re selling needs to cover any scope, from a small subset of the organisation (as in classic IT-centric ‘EA’) to a wildly dynamic superset of an enterprise that spans partners and suppliers and customers and even competitors across many different industries and across the entire globe. They’re not even starting to tackle those issues, in fact they seem to be running away from them as fast as they can: but that’s where EA practices – and hence EA toolsets – definitely need to be, right now, whether the vendors like it or not.

(To be fair to Troux, their panel of ‘industry experts’ was even less aware of those realities. When I asked about what kind of support they could offer to non-IT-centric enterprises, and/or those to whom financial return was not the sole measure or even the primary measure of success, my question was met with blank stares of incomprehension, and eventually a muttered non-reply from one of the panel members that didn’t even remotely answer the question. Oh well.)

Also disappointing was that their star turn, a lead architect from Merck in the US, perfectly illustrated my point about ‘small countries’ versus ‘big countries’. He purported to be showing work which was brand new, world-leading and the rest, and he obviously believed it was (well, after all, it came from the United States, which everyone knows is the world-leader in everything, right?). But in fact his centrepiece ‘capability model’ was, in essence, a pale reflection of the work we did at least four years ago at Australia Post: as far as the ‘small countries’ were concerned, it was nothing new at all, in fact just a routine technique that I’ve used in several clients now over the past few years.

Oh well.

But thanks are due to Troux, in any case, for putting on a good show, and a good place to exchange ideas with the handful of practitioners (once again, most of them from the ‘small countries’, I note) who were trying to tackle the much broader scope that a true enterprise architecture requires.

More comments in the next post or two, anyway.

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