Another month, another enterprise-architecture conference, in the hope that it won’t be just another more-of-the-same ‘IT-architecture pretending to be enterprise architecture’. This time, at the IRM-UK Enterprise Architecture Conference 2009 (EAC2009) in London earlier this week, that hope actually showed some real signs of fruition.

Sure, there were plenty of signs of the usual IT-centrism. Roger Sessions is one of those still fighting the rearguard for that cause, mainly because he (correctly) points out that there is a very real need for organisations to clean up their IT act, and always will be. (To illustrate his point, there was an excellent presentation from Johan Krebbers, showing how Shell is using a classic TOGAF-style EA in managing the huge complexity of their IT space.) My concern, and that of what is now a rapidly-growing number of enterprise architects at the conference, such as Sally Bean, Richard Veryard, Chris Potts, Anders Ostergaard (Jensen), John Gotze, Kristof Dierckxsens and Nigel Green, is that starting from IT as the primary (or only) focus is the wrong way round for doing EA: we must start from the whole-of-enterprise scope, and only then explore the information needs, in parallel with all of the other needs of the enterprise. It’s startling how few still of the IT-folks manage to grasp this central point, but the wave is growing.

John Gotze and his co-authors may help in that shift with their upcoming book Coherency Management. They describe three distinct tiers of enterprise architecture:

  • Foundation – conventional TOGAF-style ‘enterprise architecture’, centred around IT, and with business-architecture (if any) aimed solely at improving ‘business/IT alignment’
  • Extended – what I’ve been promoting as ‘enterprise architecture’, covering the whole-of-enterprise scope, but maintained primarily by an explicit (and, in the earlier stages, often quite large) team of full-time enterprise architects
  • Embedded – what I’ve described as ‘hands-off’ architecture, in which the ‘ownership’ and responsibility for the architecture is distributed throughout the enterprise and becomes an embedded part of business-as-usual practices, much like security or health-and-safety

As they say somewhat ruefully in their chapter-summary, the ‘Foundation’ level is “the predominant form of EA practiced today”, but we need to be aware of and build towards ‘Extended’ and ‘Embedded’, rather than leaving us stranded in the limited and limiting IT-centric space. I’m definitely looking forward to reading that book when it comes out in a few weeks’ time.

In the meantime, one of the industry’s living legends was also presenting at the conference: John Zachman. It’s amusing that he still hasn’t made it into the Powerpoint age, let alone anything more current: he did his presentation on a museum-piece of an overhead-projector, reading every word off the transparency with a little hand-shaped pointer, like the worst of school rote-learning from half a century ago. 🙂 And I do still disagree with his core metaphor of ‘engineering the enterprise’, which is fatally flawed by its failure to make any allowance for the fact that, by definition, an enterprise is a social system, not a machine – and that failure inevitably leads to serious problems in the architecture and in management practice. But the real surprise was at the human level: for someone so famous in ‘the trade’, he is such a nice guy! Engaging, warm, personable, genuinely friendly, genuinely inclusive, genuinely comfortable with critique: a real pleasure, and a real example to us all, I suspect! 🙂

A very different conference from the TOGAF ones, in many subtle ways: a much stronger emphasis on practice over theory, for example, and on real-world practitioners rather than primarily the large consultancies. The big-consultancy hype was better held at bay, too – much more realism around cloud-computing, for example.

And I had a lot of good conversations with a range of different folks, again most of them in the live practice space. Much appreciated, and most enlightening in most cases. So yes, I’ll be going to EAC when it comes round again next year. Pricey (of course), but recommended.

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2 Comments on “EAC2009

  1. Tom,
    Thanks very much for your kind words about EAC Europe 2009. We certainly do try very hard to put together a balanced wide-ranging programme which is biased towards real-world practical experiences but also includes emerging EA trends. It’s great to get positive feedback and to know that we are taking things in the right direction.

    We get a lot of comments about the quality of the ‘side conversations’. I think one of the things that really helps the ‘buzz’ in the refreshment breaks is that a majority of our speakers (including John Zachman) participate fully in the conference and are not tucked away in private meetings most of the time.
    Sally Bean
    EAC Conference co-chair

  2. Tom – thanks for this report.

    I note that there is an extraordinarily simple solution to the problem of people misusing EA as a name for what they do, and that is to adopt the discipline of calling it EITA or EISA when that’s what it really is. If we could just get people to do that, we could correctly use EA for the larger more inclusive domain of the architecture of an enterprise in its entirety, not just its IT assets. As you may be aware, I have been tilting at this particular windmill for several years now, and I would go further than Roger Sessions, in that as “business/IT alignment” will always be an important concern of enterprises, EISA/EITA will always be an important domain (and a compelling concern of IT organizations), even when it is properly “umbrella-ed” by EA.


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