Wizard, in reverse

Wandering through this perhaps-too-ancient town’s centre this weekend, I drift into the grubby not-quite mall that crowds around the now all-but-abandoned old Saxon church. And notice, there in the town’s one remaining video-store, that the relatively-recent Disney not-exactly-blockbuster Oz The Great And Powerful is already on special, and presumably already on its way out. Pity: I quite liked it at the cinema. Oh well.

But yeah, in some ways it reminds me of enterprise-architecture – or what I understood as ‘enterprise-architecture’. Which, to me, now feels kinda like the original Wizard of Oz, but in reverse, scrambled, the whole story lost.

In the original Oz, Dorothy and faithful dog Toto arrive at the Emerald Castle, with their friends the Tin Man, the Scarecrow and the Cowardly Lion. They all hope that the Wizard of Oz will grant their wishes: the Tin Man wants a heart, the Scarecrow wants a brain, the Cowardly Lion wants to find courage, and Dorothy wants to go home to Kansas. (Toto just wants to be with Dorothy, but he’s already there anyway, so no problem. As such.) The Wizard tries to bamboozle them, drive them away – but Toto pulls back the curtain to the control-room, to show him up to be an old fraud, relying on fakery and technological tricks to appear more important or capable than he actually is. In the end, fakery kinda wins out: the Wizard can’t grant the wishes himself, but he kinda ‘tricks them into being powerful’, giving the Tin Man a paper heart, the Scarecrow a fake degree, and the Cowardly Lion a medal for non-existent courage – which works for them I guess, because they all seem happy enough in the end. And Dorothy, it turns out, never needed anyone’s help in the first place – all she has to do is click together the heels of her ruby slippers, and she’s home. Or something like that.

In this story of so-called ‘enterprise’-architecture, though, things are a bit different. The Oz trio are kinda like TOGAF’s ‘three-architectures’: the Tin Man is technology-architecture, the Scarecrow is information-architecture, and the blustery, blousy Cowardly Lion is business-architecture, scared of any uncertainty, trying so hard to be ‘in control’ but manifestly failing to do so. Dorothy is trying to keep the whole show together, I guess – ‘The Architect’, if you like. But as soon as they get to the Emerald Castle, Dorothy gets seduced into the shopping-mall, and goes off to search Primark for that ever-elusive pair of perfect ruby slippers. The ever-faithful Toto still tries to draw people’s attention to the trap, pulling back the curtain as per before, but no-one notices. The Wizard, wearing his great big shiny dollar-sign-decorated robe and still waving his ‘Certified Gosh-Aren’t-I-Clever!’ stickers, stays locked-up in self-absorbed fascination with his own technological tricks (do I hear words like ‘cloud’ or ‘big-data’ or ‘so-lo-mo’ – or something like ‘sine-fin’, maybe? – echoing through the Wizard’s hype-laden loudhailers here?), and, as usual, helps no-one at all, not even himself. All that he does manage to do with his ‘grand illusions’ is to take away what little heart, brain and courage the Tin Man, the Scarecrow and the Cowardly Lion ever had, and leave them standing heartless, brainless and purposeless at the castle gates, where they’re eventually rejoined by a now broke, bankrupt-in-many-ways and ruby-slipperless Dorothy. And they all walk backwards down the Yellow Brick Road, in search of the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, which, by definition, they’ll never find – though they’ll probably get attacked on the way anyway by a bunch of flying monkeys who unleash upon them, well, whatever it is that flying-monkeys tend to unleash… In the meantime, Toto – probably the only one in the whole bunch with any sense at all – has wandered away in disgust, found the ‘Exit’ sign half-hidden behind the Wizard’s smoke-machine, and gone off home on his own, with the possible intent of raising a rescue-party.

There’s no actual Wicked Witch Of The West in this story, no simple ‘villain’ to blame – other than myopic mindlessness and sheer stupidity – but it’s all too easy to see that the only way this story has any chance of a happy ending is if something pretty big comes crashing down from the sky and finally knocks some sense into the participants. More likely, though, that it’ll land on our purported protagonists than on that metaphoric ‘Wicked Witch’ – and it’s never wise anyway to rely on a real disaster to provide any kind of wake-up call or helping hand.

Oh well.

Yeah, it might well take a few years for Toto to raise that rescue-party, y’know. In the meanwhile, just don’t say I didn’t warn you, okay?

[Update: In a classic piece of bad-timing on my part, I discover from today’s BBC News that there’s been some serious tornado-damage in Illinois and other parts of the US Mid-West during this weekend. Unfortunate for all involved, to say the least, and unfortunate timing for this metaphor too, though any parallel allusions on my part most definitely not intended – hence my apologies, if any are needed there.]

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