The structure of enterprise architecture
Depends on the true definition of each. One person said to me that there is no business without information, one and same.
Red-rag-to-bull time for me: in effect that “one person” is saying that business is only information, which is about as insanely IT-centric as one can get. So yes, I exploded:
“business=information” is VERY dangerous! business = transactions + conversations + relations + purpose
…which in classic Twitter style is probably too compressed and cryptic to make any sense at all… oh well. 🙂 But worth expanding on here.
The line about “transactions + conversations + relations + purpose” is an expansion on the old Cluetrain tag-line that “markets are conversations”, using a crosslink to the ancient ‘four dimensions’ of physical, virtual, relational and aspirational that I use in most of my work on enterprise architecture (EA):
- physical ‘things’
- virtual information and imagined space
- relations between people
- aspirations for individual and shared purpose
Transactions may be physical, virtual, relational etc; conversations are a composite of virtual information and relations between people; and so on, and so on. The architecture of the enterprise must support every required combination of these themes.
But classic ‘enterprise architecture’ strips all of this down to a tiny subset: the small segment that can be handled exclusively by IT systems. It then turns this round, and says that business is computer-based information – hence the IT-centric delusion that IT is the sole centre of the business world. It’s true that we can just-about get away with this delusion when the business genuinely is information-centric – as in insurance, finance or banking – but even then it’s all too easy to forget about the other dimensions, as the banks did when they set out to dismiss the relational aspects of business by closing all their retail branches, and then wondered why they had no customers left… sure, it produced significant short-term savings but very nearly at a cost of killing the business. Not wise… In any other industry, from aviation to logistics to manufacturing to retail to utilities to pharma to telco to… well, anything, really… that IT-centric delusion means that the resultant EA rapidly becomes worse than useless: its blinkered view actively hinders the development of the business, because it all but ignores anything other than IT-based information. Which, right now, is precisely why so many organisations are challenging the value of their EA. Not wise, on either side…
So there’s a general warning here to every architect. If someone says “no business without information”, they’re right: information is an essential aspect of business – though it may come in many different forms, from conversations to scraps of paper to ideas drifting in from the aether as well as in electronic records sitting in a data-centre or on a screen. But whenever anyone throws in an exclusional rider, such as “no business without information, one and same” – that business is only information – that should set alarm-bells ringing straight away. The business and its architecture always involve all of the dimensions – physical, virtual, relational, aspirational – all of them, interweaving, always. Anyone who says otherwise is deluding themselves, and others, trying to take some over-simplified ‘easy way’ such as IT-centrism that always works out to be harder in the long run. You have been warned! 🙂