EA: past and future, money and story

One more comment on the ‘certification for enterprise-architecture’ farrago, and then I’d better move on.

The other day I spotted a one-liner from ‘gamechangerMike Bonifer that I can only describe as quietly brilliant – and painfully pertinent to this problem here:

Follow the money to see where it’s been. Follow the story to see where it’s going.

The original context for that one-liner was somewhat different from ours (well worth the read, though!). Yet the way I would read it for this context – for enterprise-architecture – would be this:

Follow the money to see EA’s past. Follow the story to see EA’s future.

In these still-Taylorist times, there is a lot of money to be made in providing mindless managers with a spurious pseudo-certainty, the pablum of pseudo-predictability: that’s pretty much the classic business-model of the large IT-consultancies in just one line. Much the same applies to pandering to reckless recruiters and confused candidates: hence a very large and profitable business in providing prepackaged ‘training’ for prepackaged ‘standards’ – which, however, may not match up with the real world much, if at all. And the way that all of these work is that they assume that the future will be the same as the past – which, in reality, it often isn’t. Which can be a very real problem…

So to see where EA has been – and what’s now holding it back – all we need do is follow the money.

To see EA’s future, we need a story: a story of what EA could be, what it might become, how it can handle change, how it can change itself. EA applying story, recursively, to itself: enterprise-architecture as story.

That kind of story, however, is conspicuously absent from pretty much all of the current proposals and discussions about ‘professionalisation’ of EA. There is no story: instead, at best we’re merely offered a mildly-modified more-of-the-same, a metaphoric equivalent of the classic pseudo-strategy of “last year +10%” – and for all of it, the real unspoken focus of ‘making money’, and protecting that ‘making money’ as the private preserve of some self-selected self-styled ‘profession’. And when money dominates, often the only permitted story-of-the-future is a poor-quality reprise of the past: vaguely-viable in a static world, perhaps, but not exactly a wise move when things are changing – and change itself accelerating – at the pace they are now. Oops…

Clearly, we’re going to need a proper story here.

One that isn’t focussed solely on reprising the past, for private profit alone.

One that does help us make sense of our changing enterprises, and the ongoing change in scope and role of enterprise-architecture itself.

But there’s a catch: and it’s painfully visible right there in Mike Bonifer’s quote above, though most people would probably miss it at first. It’s this nasty little dilemma:

  • there’s no viable future for EA without a meaningful story – and the future won’t happen without that story

But…

  • no-one seems willing to pay for that future-oriented work – because, at present, all of the money is focussed on the past

And yeah, I have a lot of painful first-hand experience of that dilemma…

In other words, what we have right now in EA is the classic short-term-thinking ‘quick-profit failure-cycle‘:

The short-hand summary of this? – grab the money as soon as the consultancy-gig or training-task is complete, and go back as quickly as possible to cajole the next customer. Future? – what future? – who cares about that? – make the money while you can!

In the meantime, the connection to trust, to purpose, to vision and values, to people, and to policies that would actually give all this frenetic activity some kind of meaning, all quietly fade away to nothing. Leaving nothing but an empty shell of what once might have been.

Sigh…

Yep: follow the money to see where it’s been; follow the story to see where it’s going. Without that deeper future-oriented story – and people willing to pay for that story – this whole ‘profession’ of enterprise-architecture risks going precisely nowhere but backward into nothingness.

Sigh indeed…

What do we do about this, folks? Comments/suggestions, anyone?

Posted in Business, Complexity / Structure, Enterprise architecture, Futures, Knowledge, The Outsider Tagged with: , , , , , , , ,
2 comments on “EA: past and future, money and story
  1. Arno Kuijper says:

    Ha Tom,

    Interesting to read :-). Struggling with the same cycle all over IT in the past 10 to 15 years or so. To really manage the change in an organization, that’s the challenge. Like a good friend of mine says: The light bulb wasn’t invented by optimizing the candle… So the key would be to have a CEO who believes in the future Architecture, is willing to invest in his People and dares to take the next step with you as a dedicated consultant to also change culture and behavior inside his company. By measuring and improve Trust and Commitment while designing Architectures/Solutions/Services and measure and improve must/will/can while implementing those services and at the end deliver what you promise I think we can have great results… But it’s not easy.
    Cheers,
    Arno

    • Tom G says:

      Thanks, Arno

      “But it’s not easy.” – yep, I know. I know that, all too well. Yet we’ve kinda run out of time for ‘easy’, haven’t we? Just need to get the damn thing done, sometimes…

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