The importance of ‘also’

“Every business is an information business.”

That was the first line of an infographic I saw this morning.

And yep, no doubt about it: every business is indeed an information business.

But there’s a rather important word that’s missing there: also.

Fact is that every business is just a business. Nothing else.

Every business is also an ‘information business’, in that it garners and works with and acts on information.

Every business is also a people business, in that the business itself is (to use Bob Marshall’s words) all about “attending to folk’s needs”.

Every business is also a relationship business, in that it ultimately depends on garnering and working with and acting on the relationships with all of those people.

Every business is also a marketing business, in that it ‘sells’ its idea, its purpose, its reason-to-be, through all of those relationships.

Every business is also an asset-management business, in that it must garner and work with and act on all manner of assets.

Every business is also an event-driven business, in that it responds to a variety of trigger-events.

Every business is also a purpose-driven business, in that it uses (variously-layered) notions of purpose to guide its decision-making about those events.

Every business is also a…

Yeah, you get the picture: we could go on indefinitely, couldn’t we?

Yet the core of it all is that every business is just a business is just a business – nothing else. ‘The business’ as a unified whole. Everything else – every prepended attribute such as ‘information’ or ‘marketing’ or ‘people’ or ‘asset’ or whatever – is merely one amongst an almost infinite variety of ‘also‘.

Without the ‘also’, there tends to be an implicit ‘only’: “is an information business” reinterpreted as “is only an information business”. The moment someone forgets the ‘also’, we’re straight into some form of ‘-centrism’. (As happened in that original infographic mentioned above, in fact: it started with “Every business is an information business”, and two lines later we were straight into full-on IT-centrism. Sigh…)

From an architectural viewpoint, reality is this:

  • things work better when they work together, on purpose
  • everything depends on everything else
  • nothing is inherently ‘more important’ than anything else
  • everywhere and nowhere is ‘the centre’, all at the same time

The moment we get any of that that wrong, we’d no longer be doing architecture – we’d be doing ‘solutioneering’. Which is not a good idea…

The architecture is in the connections and interdependencies between everything and everything else, on purpose.

Or, in short, the architecture is in the ‘also’.

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Posted in Business, Complexity / Structure, Enterprise architecture, Knowledge
4 comments on “The importance of ‘also’
  1. Rien Dijkstra says:

    Yes your right, running a business comprises multiple aspects. But is it not right that the common denominator of all the aspects you listed (people, relations, marketing, assets, etc) is about the data and information processing on a personal, group and enterprise level?
    Where in this case data and information processing shouldn’t be interpreted as a synonym for automated data and information processing (the IT-centrism trap as you mentioned).

    From my point of view the architect should trie to help to create and maintain a consistent and coherent organisation to make things work better. Taking multiple aspects in to account based on the common denominator of data and information processing on a personal, group and enterprise level to improve decision making at these different levels.

    Although the Enterprise Architect should be modest in his claim, because his rationality as an advisor is bounded. Given the limited amount of time and resources available to obtain data/information to make decisions, his rationality is by definition bounded.

    Every Business is just a business, making decisions about what, how and when to do things based on information and data someway or another …

    • Tom G says:

      Hi Rien

      “But is it not right that the common denominator of all the aspects you listed (people, relations, marketing, assets, etc) is about the data and information processing on a personal, group and enterprise level?”

      Nope. It’s a common factor, yes; but not the common factor. Plural, not singular. The difference might seem subtle, but it’s absolutely crucial, both in theory and in practice – because the moment we get it wrong, we automatically fall into ‘something-centrism’. Which in turn automatically breaks the architecture as architecture.

      If you want a non-IT example, consider what happens when money is taken to be ‘the common denominator’ of everything in an enterprise. (If it isn’t obvious, what you get is summarised in the old adage that “a fool knows the price of everything and the value of nothing”.)

      “Although the Enterprise Architect should be modest in his claim, because his rationality as an advisor is bounded.”

      Yep – and his/her remit and authority even more bounded, too. Which is where this gets tricky… :-|

      (On the rest, in general, agree strongly, of course. :-) )

  2. Rien Dijkstra says:

    Hi Tom,

    OK if you want to be subtle :) ) it is not THE common denominator because it is just one of the views you can have on reality.
    But to put it another way “some pigs are more equal than others”. From my perspective every opinion, every emotion or feeling, every relation, every action of a person, group or organization is based on some kind of information processing explicit/conscious or implicit/subconscious.

    This makes information processing (which notion is not equivalent with IT) so special as a denominator and therefore you cant compare it with a denominator such as money.

  3. Tom G says:

    Hi Rien

    “From my perspective every opinion, every emotion or feeling, every relation, every action of a person, group or organization is based on some kind of information processing explicit/conscious or implicit/subconscious. This makes information processing (which notion is not equivalent with IT) so special as a denominator…”

    Had you noticed that there might be a circularity there: everything described in terms of information, which is then used to argue that everything should be described in terms of information? :-)

    “therefore you cant compare it with a denominator such as money.”

    Uh… in the sense that money is itself a subset of and expression of information, yes, I can… Very much so…

    (Yeah, I do know I’m being unkind, teasing you :-) – yet there is an element of truth in the teasing, too.)

    No surprise that I agree strongly with you re “information processing (which notion is not equivalent with IT)” – there is much more to information than just the small subset that can managed via IT. Sadly, a lot of people in ‘the trade’ seem to not understand even that fundamental a point… Oh well… :-( :-)

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