On consultancy, enterprise-architecture and playing fair

Most people will know that I’m passionate about enterprise-architecture, and about developing new capabilities in the enterprise-architecture disciplines.

And I guess most people will know that it’s also my ‘paid-work’ profession.

Most people will also know that I go out of my way to help others in this profession, too – particularly folks who are trying to find their way in the difficult twists and turns of whole-of-enterprise architecture.

As my work has become better-known, and more and more people in ‘the trade’ come to realise that the ‘classic’ IT-centric forms of enterprise-architecture don’t and can’t work well outside of IT-infrastructure, I’ve been having more and more requests from others for comment, help and advice. Which is fair enough: I like doing it. Yet the previous steady trickle of requests has now grown to something more like a flood, to the point where it’s really starting to interfere with my regular research and regular consultancy-work.

Unfortunately there also appear to be an increasing number of people in my professional life who seem unable or unwilling to ‘connect the dots’ here, in a professional sense. These people are not members of my peer-group – fellow-researcher/consultants – and they’re not students: instead, they’re often quite senior people in commercially-oriented organisations – some of them very large organisations indeed. And they expect the advice to be professional – which is fair enough – and with responses in same-day business timescales – which is likewise fair enough. In some cases they send me a long stream of queries, seeking further clarification as they sort out the direction they need to follow – which again is fair enough, of course. But what is not ‘fair enough’ is that they also expect all of this advice to be for free – and I can think of several such cases where that un-paid-for advice was worth literally millions of dollars to their organisations. One infamous organisation has even repeatedly asked me to pay them for the ‘privilege’ of correcting the fundamental design-flaws in their models, so that they can then sell on my work as their own. And I’ll have to admit that I’m getting more than a bit fed up with these game-plays, because it should be obvious to everyone involved that none of this is okay at all.

So I perhaps need to be more explicit about asking people to play fair.

If you’re in my peer-group (and you know who you are, and many thanks indeed to all of you), we all continue to share and share alike. We each learn from each other, and each apply what we learn in our own ways and in our own business-contexts. As far practicable, we keep concerns about ‘intellectual property’ and like to an absolute minimum, because we know how much that gets in the way. No money needs to change hands in that exchange, because that’s not what it’s about: we know this. Which is what makes it work, for all of us.

If you’re a student, or someone who’s just getting started, I’ll gladly help where I can, and as quickly as I can, but please don’t assume that I’ll be able to respond straight away. I’m running under fairly extreme overload at present (at least two books to write this year, probably three, on top of all the other work I’m already doing on four continents so far), so do be realistic about it. And please do read the books or presentations first, so that we don’t have to waste time going over old ground that’s already covered elsewhere.

But if you’re working for a commercial or government organisation, and you’re asking for advice that would be of financial benefit to the organisation and/or that you would usually expect to pay a consultant for, please be realistic, and be clear up-front what you’re asking. And if you do need an answer in commercial timescales, expect to pay a commercial rate. (You know what those rates are for your industry in your country.) Taking a lead from Marc Sniukas – another strategy-consultant whose work I greatly respect – you’re welcome to a free consultation for up to an hour’s-worth of time, by phone, via Skype, by email, or even in person, in which we can discuss your business-situation, your aims and goals, and ideas and options for architectural action. But if you want to go beyond that, we need to talk business – and real business rates.

Playing fair helps you too – because if you don’t play fair about this, I literally cannot afford to give you the service that you need.

So let’s all play fair about this. Okay?

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