House and home

A great one-liner by enterprise-architect Jon Ayre:

RT @EnterprisingA: Comparing #itarch with #entarch is like comparing your cooker with your house. Your cooker helps you to eat but your house is where you live

It reminds me of the key tag-line of the 1997 Australian comedy-film ‘The Castle‘:

You can buy a house, but you can’t buy a home.

To me, that distinction between house and home is the core of the difference between EITA and whole-enterprise EA – or, for that matter, between organisation and enterprise.

A house is a ‘thing’, an assemblage of means – and on its own, ‘an empty thunder, signifying nothing’.

A home is… something else… – a ‘something-between‘ that uses the ‘things’ of the house, or coalesces around or through the ‘things’ of the house, yet in itself is not of the house. Not so much signifying something-or-other, as that it is significance – the ‘not-stuff’ from which significance itself is made.

There’s good reason and much human experience behind that old tag-line about ‘home is where the heart is’. The same is true of enterprise: an organisation is the metaphoric place – the assemblage of means – through which we do business, but the enterprise is why we would want to do business there.

To link back to Jon’s line above, it’s kinda sad when people mistake a house for a home, yet even more sad when they purport that one single item such as the cooker is ‘the home’. In tradition, the hearth is the centre around which the activities of house and home revolve; and in that sense, yes, IT might well now seem to be ‘the centre’ around which the activities of organisation and enterprise revolve. Yet don’t ever mistake the hearth for the home itself, or mistake the IT for the enterprise – because that’s what drives the heart out from the story.

Enterprise is the organisation’s heart, its soul: it’s what ‘to be enterprising’ is, it’s what gets people going in the morning and keeps them going through the day, it’s what drives ‘the business of the business’ – whatever that business might be. Yet on its own, an organisation is literally an ‘enterprise’ with no heart, no soul: an empty shell, a dead shell – or, worse, an ‘undead’ shell… 🙂 There are real dangers there if we ever get this one wrong…

A cooker is not a house; a house is not a home. The organisation and its IT may provide the means for enterprise, yet it’s not what the enterprise is, or means – so don’t mix them up!

3 Comments on “House and home

  1. Indeed, and many of the same principles apply to IT architecture as well – for the most part, no one outside of IT is really interested in the technology, they’re interested in how the technology enables the business to do something. It’s easy to conflate the thing with the capabilities it enables, but it’s a shallow viewpoint that carries its own pitfalls.

    • Yep: strongly agree with you there. And likewise for all of the other enterprise-domains: in fact probably the classic is the executive who falls for the trap of thinking that the shareholders ‘are’ the enterprise. (They’re part of the business-enterprise, of course, and often they themselves will think that they ‘are’ or ‘own’ the enterprise: but as you say, “it’s a shallow viewpoint that carries its own pitfalls” – and we need to be aware of those very real pitfalls as enterprise-architects.) The shareholders and other ‘owners’ have a financial stake in the metaphoric house of the enterprise, but they don’t own the home: that difference can be extremely important in real-world EA practice.

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