Enterprise-architecture and financial-services

Yes, this is another ‘how not to do it’ post. And no, this isn’t about the current Barclays mess, but instead about a quote I saw in a passing tweet by enterprise-architect Joseph George:

  • RT @josephg5: “Financial services can be thought of as a technology business, with a financial domain of expertise.” Guy Chiarello #CIO #quote #entarch

I’ve no idea of George’s personal position on this (or even Chiarello’s, for that matter), but my own response was an almost-screamed “no! No!! NO!!!” – because to me, from an enterprise-architecture perspective, this is exactly how not to view financial-services.

Okay, take a deep breath, Thomas; start again.

Yes, if you really want to, you can think of financial-services as a technology business with a financial domain of expertise. But to do so is IT-centrism of the worst possible kind – and it’s a really, really, really bad idea. And the same applies for every other type of business whose business is not explicitly centred around the design, development and use of the technology itself.

The right way to think of it is that financial-services is a type of business with a financial domain of expertise that, in many cases, relies on specific types of technology and technology-based algorithms and processes to supports its means of doing business. So yes, technology is important here. Obviously. The key point here, though, is that in the organisation’s enterprise-architecture, the aims of the business must always take priority over the means of doing business.

Hence, in this case, the aims and concept of ‘financial-services’ – the service of financial-services – must always take precedence over the technology of financial-services. The moment we forget this, or get this the wrong way round, we’ll be heading for deep, deep trouble, in the architecture, and probably everything else as well.

And whilst no enterprise-architect would doubt the importance of technology these days within financial-services or anything else, the human-component is what makes it all work – and also the reason why it exists in the first place. If we ever forget either of those facts, and/or forget to include the human-component in our architecture, we’ll have an architecture that, by definition, is designed to fail, usually in some fairly nasty ‘unexpected’ ways.

In short, yes, all too easy to hold that technology-centric ‘the technology comes first’ view, but it’s not a good idea… Don’t do it!

3 Comments on “Enterprise-architecture and financial-services

  1. [site-administrator note: this comment was manually transferred from previous web-host during the site-move – gravatar shown is mine as editor, not Peter’s]

    As an ex retail banky myself I can say all that has changed is the delivery method over the last 30 years and the human component is now even more critical. Annoy a customer and its on facebook, twitter and screen captures on youtube before you can say oops.
    With cloud and the business moving via contract and SLA’s to what are essentially well solution architected vertical systems, a business owned and operated architecture that IT supports is more and more critical.
    IT has justifiably for years complained that the business does not know what it wants. An enterprise / business owned architecture forces that change and confirms that IT is just an enabler.

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