Wolfed

Still recovering somewhat from a thoroughly nasty run-in with a guy named Wolf, on an on-line list about future vision for enterprise-architecture. (For obvious legal reasons, I’d probably better not give any more details than that.) To give some idea, he proudly claimed to be “a man of science”, but amidst a stream of insults – “whining”, “hapless”, “technophobic” – and sarcastic put-downs – “poetic wailing”, “now, for everybody who is still capable of independent rational thinking” – this was what he apparently considered to be a rational argument about the process of enterprise-architecture:

Keep dreaming Tom, and if your dreams also bring you some pay checks, I honestly envy you. Beware, though of the bad economy: less and less bosses are willing to pay for dreams.

He’d started off in the wrong direction anyway, because whilst we were talking about developments in how to do architecture at the whole-of-enterprise scale, his vision for EA, he said, was cloud-computing – in other words, a minor subset of content, not process. It became clear very quickly that whilst he certainly knew his stuff about technical-architecture and IT-based process-modelling, he was completely out of his depth in anything else – particularly business-architecture, whole-of-enterprise architecture, the process of visioning, and in some ways even the process of science. What he did manage, and manage well, was a startling degree of pseudo-scientific arrogance:

I have founded this group for those EAs who feel themselves rather a part of scientific community, using exact terms of scientific discipline to create exact solutions and extrapolate them to the future, rather than part of the order of augurs that make gibberish predictions because they not only cannot foresee the future but are unable to understand the present.

As any real practising scientist would know, we cannot predict ‘the future’: we can sort-of predict ‘a future’ for something which operates only within a defined set of premises, but the real world won’t confine itself within any such convenient constraints. And this, for example, was his ‘First Postulate’ for his ‘scientific’ enterprise-architecture:

Modern Enterprise cannot run its Business Model without computing means;

Which is fair enough, in a sense – but it’s not science. There’s no rationale behind it: it’s just a religious-style Great Truth, floating in mid-air, without context and without anchors into the real world – where, in disaster-recovery, ‘Modern Enterprise’ may suddenly find it’s physically lost those ‘computing means’, and has to find a way to run its ‘Business Model’ without them. I was trying to explain that that is what an extended EA would need to cover – but he would have none of it at all. Cloud-computing was it: nothing else mattered.

And in effect, he did the classic TOGAF trick of thinking that the label of ‘business architecture’ in itself resolved all the issues about how to handle ‘all the architecture stuff that’s outside of my area of interest’:

EA has evolved and now includes, among others, distinct disciplines of Enterprise IT Architecture (EITA) and Enterprise Business Architecture (EBA), both well-formalized disciplines. EBA includes EITA plus to business-specific acumen like Accountability (people) and others. Everyone can just google or wiki Business Architecture and learn its definition.

Your ‘EA’ somehow includes ‘everything’ (do not know how – no definition) but does not include BPM, which is the common basis of and the bridge between EBA and EITA. For me all this makes the professional level of this discussion very low. It is a warning.

Apart from, again, the startling aggression and arrogance, real EA practitioners would notice the error here: he’s blurring high-level strategy, human factors such as accountability, and low-level process-mapping (BPM) all into the same randomised ‘EBA’ – the classic ‘business-architecture = everything not-IT’, without any means to separate out all the distinct interfaces and interdependencies. As for the comment “Everyone can just google or wiki Business Architecture and learn its definition”, it was obvious he’d never done so himself: if you try it, you’ll find that there are a near-infinity of would-be definitions, most of which seem to be mutually contradictory. :wrygrin: Far from being a “well-formalized discipline”, as Wolf claimed, the whole field of enterprise business architecture is still a disorganised shambles – a fact that anyone actually in the trade would admit straight away. Getting some sense of order into that mess is part of what the whole-of-enterprise architecture project is all about.

At first his aggression was directed solely at me; but then he realised that the other contributors weren’t joining in on the attacks, but instead were agreeing with what I’d said, and then adding further examples of their own (which was, indeed, what I’d hoped the discussion-thread would do). After he found that attacking them too didn’t work either, he pulled out the ‘I’m the boss here’ tactic:

I, as a specialist and the manager of this group, have said enough. Those who have ears, will hear. From now on, I will observe this discussion, as I do with others, unless I am explicitly asked by any participants to express my mind. Your right to express whatever weird views you want is limited by my right to end a discussion if I see it as compromising the group goals.

Metaphorically speaking, I could see a small boy, pouting in petulant rage at not getting his own way in some game, saying “it’s my bat and ball and I’m taking them and going home and then you won’t be able to play any more, so there!!” Which he did: he killed the thread, and, unsurprisingly, also my membership of ‘his’ list.

The whole affair has left a thoroughly nasty taste in the mouth:  I haven’t met that level of aggressively unprofessional conduct since dealing with a group of self-styled ‘pro-feminist’ men in a social-work context in the early ’90s. Though the same overall problem, I notice: the same obsession in asserting that the one very small subset of an issue – the subset that they (somewhat) understand and for which they purport to have ‘the answers’ – is the whole of the issue, combined with violent personal attacks on anyone who inadvertently threatens that quasi-religious belief. Odd; yet in some ways quite dangerous, especially for others.

But despite that, at least the thread did produce a lot of good ideas, and the interactions with the others in the discussion – particularly a guy called Richard, from Siemens – were definitely worthwhile. Since the content has been killed in its original source, I’ll put some of it up here in subsequent posts.

More later, then.

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