A bit more broken

How did enterprise-architecture get to be so broken? I know I promised to move on to tactics that we can use to recover from the brokenness – and I will do so in the next post. But I must admit I’m still struggling with this – with what still seems to me to be some extraordinarily muddle-headed myopia dressed-up in the guise of sanctimonious pseudo-sense.

One of the themes we see time and time again whenever we try to challenge the lethal dysfunctionality represented by IT-centrism is that we get accused of therefore somehow being ‘against’ IT. We get lots of epithets about this: for example, that anyone who does not place IT as the sole centre of the enterprise is a ‘dinosaur‘ who knows nothing about the modern era, and such like.

All of which seems to come down to perhaps the most asinine assumption in the industry: IT, or nothing else, all, or nothing – no other possibility. Which is pretty darn stupid – indeed, as a colleague commented in a post here a while back, “Some people don’t seem to get that while computers are supposed to be binary, people are not”…

So here’s yet another example of this that I came across just a couple of days ago. [Again, I won’t be unfair enough to name the author.] This was actually another of the comments to the article I critiqued in the past couple of posts. Read it, and weep:

It truly is astounding to witness the level of consistent ignorance … surrounding modern architecture, which despite what many EAs would apparently prefer, absolutely must include information technology in the super majority of organizations that expect to survive.

By far the most significant trend in our era impacting enterprise environments has been the emergence and evolution of information technology, and the impact on the global economy, competitive landscape, levels of debt and equity, type of transactions, decision making, and on and on. Anyone who denies this, whether under the title of EA, KMer, or CEO certainly in the majority of organizations impacted, to include national governments and every major industry cluster in the world, instantly loses credibility with the best and brightest in the world, simply due to the facts.

So again, let’s take this one apart:

— “It truly is astounding to witness the level of consistent ignorance …”. Yep. Very strongly agree on that. However, we might disagree about who’s ignoring what…

— “…despite what many EAs would apparently prefer, absolutely must include information technology”. Yep, no disagreement there either: EA absolutely must include information-technology. But in fact I know of no enterprise-architect who is not aware of the importance of current information-technologies. None. However, I do know of many, many, self-styled ‘enterprise’-architects who only consider the information-technologies, and nothing else: and that is the real problem here.

— “By far the most significant trend in our era has been the emergence and evolution of information technology”. No disagreement that it’s an important trend, yes. And no-one has any doubt about that. However, it’s only one significant trend amongst many that may affect the enterprise: others that are at least equally significant include the impact of regulation and deregulation enabling key types of business-models, globalisation, the role of containerisation and other physical-transportation technologies, raising and lowering of tariff-barriers, the role of non-IT-managed ‘tribal knowledge’, nanotechnologies, 3D-printing technologies, patents and other ‘intellectual-property’ regimes, the impacts of organisational culture, jurisdictional clashes, the rise of the BRICS nations and the faltering of many ‘Western’ nations, the increasing role of China and others in Africa with regard to control of key mineral-commodities, the risks to global communications posed by rising levels of space-junk and suchlike, broad-scale political themes such as the Arab Spring, and, increasingly, the impacts of climate-change. There are immensely complex architectural trade-offs here, immensely complex wicked-problems, of which only one strand is the IT. So if your architecture for the enterprise implicitly ignores everything other than IT, you may well find your organisation suddenly struggling to survive, with no idea of what the heck happened nor any means to respond. Not a wise idea, perhaps? That’s why we talk about an enterprise-architecture that’s necessarily broader than just the IT.

— “Anyone who denies this, whether under the title of EA, KMer, or CEO … instantly loses credibility with the best and brightest in the world, simply due to the facts.” Yep. No disagreement there. But in far too much so-called ‘enterprise’-architecture, what’s actually being denied is that there could be anything significant to the enterprise other than its IT. That’s what worries us; that’s why we challenge it.

Those of us who question IT-centrism do so not because we’re rejecting IT, but for two very clear, very explicit, and frankly unchallengeable reasons:

  • there is more to every enterprise than just its IT
    and
  • not just IT-centrism but ‘anywhere-centrism’ inherently kills an enterprise-architecture 

Like every other EA, I keep track of IT-oriented trends such as big-data, BYOD, virtualisation, cloud, app-stores, SOA, rules-engines, social-technologies and suchlike. Yet I also keep track of developments in medicine, space-technology, logistics, pharmaceuticals, farming, futures, transcultural themes, complexity-theory, business-model innovation, improvisation, military theory and much, much else besides – because I know that all of them can be relevant to my clients’ enterprise-architectures. Do you do that? Or do you just stick to ‘anything-IT’, and ignore everything else?

In short, we reject an IT-centric view of enterprise-architecture not because it’s about IT, but because it’s too darn parochial to be of much practical use in the real world…

So, IT-folks, drop your arrogance and your ‘dinosaur’ epithets, okay? – the incontrovertible evidence is there all around you that if there are any ‘dinosaurs’ in this industry, they’re you… There’s a much, much bigger enterprise-architecture world out there than you’ve been willing to face so far, and frankly we’ll need all the help from you that we can get in working with it – but we don’t need your hindrance any more.

Bah…

Anyway, back to tactics that can help to sort out this mess…

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