Definition as EA anti-pattern?
If you’re an enterprise-architect and you haven’t yet come across Ric Phillips‘ wonderful EA Patterns blog, go over there right now: you’re in for a treat! To mix metaphors somewhat, I’d have to say it’s a national-treasure for the trade. 🙂
Yet there’s a definite challenge for me there, too, because as Ric says:
My goal is to share good ideas about enterprise architecture without using a lot of words.
Uh… oops… sorry… 😐 Yeah, my output does use “a lot of words”, I’ll have to admit that…
But there’s an even worse challenge for me in his most recent post:
Architecture-by-definition is an anti-pattern.
The goal of a definition is to remove noise.
You add another layer of noise when your definitions are model-specific sub-definitions for commonly understood terms. For example: service, product, capability, or system.
Special definitions introduce an additional cognitive load that easily outweighs the benefits of a more sophisticated model.
Ouch indeed – because I’ve put a lot of effort into precision on definitions on terms such as service versus product, or service versus function versus capability, or the distinctions between ‘organisation’ and ‘enterprise’. (Use the search-box on this page – to the right of or below this post – to do a web-search here for those terms: you’ll soon find some of the relevant posts. A fair few slidedecks, too. A heck of a lot, overall. Oh well.)
To be slightly more fair to myself here, most of it has been about precision of terminology for use within EA itself – not necessarily for use outside of our own discipline. Much like building-architects, we need precision of terms in some places, where others might get away with much looser terminology. (Though that loose usage is itself often highly problematic: witness the chaos caused by the near-random meanings assigned to ‘business-process’ versus ‘business-service’ versus ‘business-function’ versus ‘business-capability’ verus ‘business-unit’ and so on and so on. Sigh…)
But if Ric is right, then it’s possible – probable? – that all I’ve done is added to the confusion and ‘noise’. Has it all just been a waste of everyone’s time? Yikes… 🙁
Your opinions and comments, perhaps?