A great session last week with tool-vendor Alfabet, at their launch of a new London-based enterprise-architecture interest-group. (There’d been a previous one run by Microsoft, but it’d closed down somewhen late last year. This looks like it’ll be a very good replacement.)
It was set up as a dinner-event. I’d been asked by Florian Kreuger and the others of the Alfabet crew to act as the pre-dinner ‘controversial conversation-starter’ (that’s how I interpreted it, anyway 🙂 ) to get the ideas flowing during the dinner itself, and Craig Martin from the Australian-based international recruitment/consultancy group Enterprise Architects provided a more conventional follow-up discussion after the dinner itself, talking about trends in focus and recruitment for the worldwide EA discipline.
Okay, so the dinner itself was good, yet what I found most refreshing was that just about everyone understood that enterprise-architecture needs to be broken out of the IT-centric stranglehold. (That’s very different from the TOGAF conferences, where, despite various claims and espoused-aims to the contrary, IT-centrism still clearly holds sway.) Perhaps what helped most was that these were all senior-level practitioners of EA: no consultants, no academics, just people putting ideas into practice every day at a very high level within their organisations. And although most were still linked to IT in some way, these weren’t solely the usual information-centric industries – banks, insurance, finance, tax – that typify the usual ‘EA’ discussions: instead, we also had retail, manufacturing, mining, pharma, telecoms and a whole slew of others, which created a much richer awareness of what ‘the architecture of the enterprise’ really needs to cover.
Some comments here also in praise of Simon Allen and the Alfabet crew, because a key part of what made the event so successful was in what they deliberately did not do. There was no sales-pitch, no dominating Powerpoints, no “we are the best blah-di-blah-di-blah”, in fact not even a brochure in sight. What they did do instead was provide an excellent space and context for the gathering, explain the background to the meeting, their opinion that an interest-group would be a good idea for the EA profession as a whole – and then carefully got out of the way. Very unusual behaviour for a vendor – and absolutely brilliant, because it was exactly what was needed to make this work.
(A follow-up email from Simon indicated that some of the EAs from Bank of America and Citibank will be carrying the interest-group forward, so it looks like it’ll continue on as an entity beyond this one event – which is also very good news.)
The same attitude seems to be carried through into the Alfabet toolset itself, I notice. It does just one task – IT planning, from overview all the way down to fine-detail – and does it very well indeed. It then provides hooks to link that task into a whole range of other EA themes – business-relationships, the IT side of EA management, IT finance, IT risk-management and so on – but it doesn’t claim to do ‘all of enterprise-architecture’, and (perhaps more to the point) it doesn’t claim that its own specific subset of the EA space ‘is’ the whole of EA. Compared with most of the ‘big-name’ toolset vendors, that is unusual… Most of my own EA work barely touches detail-level IT, but for those who do, the Alfabet toolset certainly seems worth a good look – if only because of the realism and conceptual honesty in its approach.
One last point: Florian Kreuger and some other colleagues from other organisations have started a new blog called Beyond EA, which is not so much ‘beyond EA’ as about moving beyond IT-centric EA. Some good posts there, though right now it’s temporarily down for site-maintenance: when it comes back up again, it’ll be well worth keeping an eye on what happens there, because they do seem to have some refreshing new ideas about ways forward for EA.
Good signs of movement in the EA space, anyway.