How to screw up in one easy lesson…

Yup, I screwed up badly over that last post on IBM’s definitely not ‘new’ Component Business Model. Within a matter of minutes I’d received a whole stream of Tweets warning me I’d been mistaken about the age of the model:

  • miket0181: @tetradian IBM’s CBM isn’t new. I think it’s at least 5 years old…
  • operninha: @tetradian aqui na empresa contratamos a IBM e eles usaram o CBM (“here the company hired IBM and they used the CBM”)
  • seabird20: @tetradian I have seen CBM in RFPs for at least 5 years. Original work 10+ yrs. ago. Takes a while to get to rank and file though
  • richardveryard: @miket0181 @tetradian … IBM’s CBM came sometime after my 2001 book on Component-Based Business http://tinyurl.com/23gelj7

So yes, I was wrong on that: badly wrong. A critique about outdatedness that would have made sense if the model had been ‘new’ just looks peevish and petty when it isn’t…

Even the critique about the structure of the model is barely fair. Sure, Stafford Beer’s Viable System Model has been around since at least the mid-1970s, but the number of people who knew about it and were applying it in practice (and I actually could include myself amongst them by the mid-1990s) was and still is very small. It’s better-known these days, and its value and importance is much better-understood; but at the time the Component Business Model was devised, I would doubt that anyone in that IBM team would have even heard of it, let alone known why those kind of whole-of-system cross-checks are so crucial. The critique would definitely be valid for an equivalent model developed now, but most of the current knowledge on whole-of-enterprise impacts simply wasn’t available a decade ago. And whilst critiquing a (relatively) old model on the basis of current knowledge is valid enough, it’s only fair to do so when it’s clear when that fact of history is acknowledged – which I didn’t, because I didn’t know it was that old.

I know why I screwed up: after five years of constant struggle against IT-centrism in ‘enterprise’-architecture, I’m now seeing management-centrism promoted as an ‘improvement’, and it’s frustrating as heck… 🙁 The fundamental point in all enterprise-architecture is that there is no centre – everywhere and nowhere is ‘the centre’, all at the same time. In true whole-of-enterprise architecture, making anything ‘the centre’ – IT, finance, management, processes, security, whatever, even the business-organisation itself – will guarantee failure of the architecture over the longer term. When I saw the Tweet that triggered this, I thought it was yet another example of this lethal mistake. So I over-reacted.

In my defence, I did check the IBM site with some care. But the annoying point there is that there are no dates on that part of the site – nothing to give any clue as to when the material was posted, or its probable vintage. (Compare that to, say Apple or Microsoft, where just about everything has a ‘Last Updated’ timestamp.) I looked quite hard for anything there that would give me any clue as to the date. What I didn’t do, though, was search elsewhere – and yes, that was a mistake too. So I misread the implication of the Tweet, and mistakenly assumed the model was new – after all, it still says so, several years later…

Moral(s) of the story:

  • Fact-check everything, via multiple sources – not just the ‘official’ site for the respective information
  • If key metadata-items such as dates are missing, fact-check elsewhere again, and treat any implied derivatives (e.g. ‘new’) as suspect
  • Frustration is fine, and often all too understandable, but don’t let it rule the roost – engage doubt before pressing the ‘Send’ key…

Overall, though, the blunt fact remains that yes, I did indeed screw up there. Mea culpa…

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