EA toolsets – time to get on the cluetrain?

It was an interesting little insight – one of those things that just seem to arise spontaneously sometimes, out of the aether, at the right kind of conference.

The first part was a panel-session: five different vendors, each with their own supposed all-encompassing toolset for enterprise-architecture. Each of them had around ten minutes or so to do a pitch on the special qualities and capabilities of their own specific toolset. What was interesting here was not how different they were, but how much the same… and, more subtly at first, the wrong ‘same’…

The first presenter stood up, and showed a quick pitch about how well-suited his toolset was for ‘enterprise-architecture’ – giving, as his lead-example, mapping IT-applications in a large bank.

The second presenter stood up, and showed a quick pitch about how well-suited his toolset was for ‘enterprise-architecture’ – giving, as his lead-example, mapping IT-systems in a large bank.

The third presenter stood up, and showed a quick pitch about how well-suited his toolset was for banks and other finance-operations – giving, as his lead-example, a specific bank’s need to map its IT-systems in an ‘enterprise-architecture’.

Yeah, you can see there’s a kind of pattern developing here…?

A quick glance at the other vendors’ showed it was, at best, going to be just other minor variations on the same tired old story – “enterprise-architecture is all about IT for banks, insurance, finance and tax” – the same, lame ‘the usual suspects’ that everyone still seems to push as the star use-cases for what they think of as ‘enterprise’-architecture. Sigh… So I’ll admit I kinda gave up at this point, too, and wandered out to get an early grab at the excellent greedies laid out for the conference coffee-break.

Yet that coffee-break was where things did start to change: some quiet yet insistent behind-the-back-of-the-hand hints of rebellion in the back-chat and back-channel, we might say. Hmm…

From which, after the coffee-break, and almost without warning, we suddenly had a hugely different picture – a real real-world picture. Perhaps not surprising, though, that those two presenters weren’t from ‘the usual suspects’ – in fact both were from very large and well-known organisations in travel and leisure. And both were pretty explicit about what they experienced as the limitations of so much of so-called ‘enterprise-architecture’.

One, in fact, was really blunt:

“We fired all the enterprise-architects.”

The business as a whole had needed those ‘EAs’ to think about the needs of the enterprise as a whole – but they’d refused to look at anything at all if it wasn’t some form of IT. And if that’s all you can do, said the business, best we just say bye-bye, nice knowing you, don’t bother to call… Oops…

The other presenter was perhaps not quite so harsh, but in a way his message was even more telling:

“The core of our entire business – of every business – is about trust. We need to track and maintain everything that supports that trust. But where is any of that described in enterprise-architecture models?”

He’s right: for mainstream ‘EA’, it’s just not there at all. It’s true that TOGAF and Archimate probably do lead the mainstream pack in this, in that they do at least sort-of track some aspects of motivation, even if only in terms of how they relate to strategy for IT. But for the architecture of motivation itself, or trust, in itself, no, there’s nothing – not even there.

(As it happens, my own frameworks – perhaps particularly Enterprise Canvas – are probably some of the very few forms of EA that do explicitly acknowledge and work with such themes. If any vendors might be interested…? 🙂 )

But in the ‘EA’ toolsets? – nope, not barely even a squidge: it’s still just ‘IT for finance, insurance, banking and tax’. Wow. Yawn…

Trust. It’s the one single thing that’s most important to every enterprise – even more important than money, because without it there’s no money to be had. And yet it still doesn’t even rate a mention in any of the models on the mainstream toolsets for mainstream ‘enterprise-architecture’. What…???

Hence I’m kinda reminded of that quote that gave rise to The Cluetrain Manifesto:

The cluetrain stopped there four times a day for ten years and no one ever took delivery.

Time to get a clue, guys…

Seriously – get a clue, y’hear?

4 Comments on “EA toolsets – time to get on the cluetrain?

  1. Yes, indeed. Let’s face it, all EA tools out there are dinosaur legacy tools. Boring, boring, boring! I even feel that Archi is getting a bit “legacy” nowadays. I had good intentions, though – lightweight, agile, open source, no bullshit. I shall carry those good intentions into the next generation of tools. Mobile and Web and Cloud…

    • Phil – thanks for taking me seriously on this! And you, of all people in this space, are probably one who most does ‘have a clue’ here, not only about what’s needed, but (unlike me, I fear…) about how to make it happen in real implementation.

      Would love to chat with you somewhen about toolset-ideas, including some that we could perhaps leverage straight out of the existing Archi core – do get in touch with me somewhen soon on this, if you would?

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