Hoist by their own petard (again)

It’s another of those times where I don’t quite know whether to laugh, cry, be incensed, or what, so I guess I’ll have to settle for somewhere in between…

This morning’s email brings me the usual guff from the mainstream consultancies, one of which items included this absolute gem:

The history of enterprise architecture (EA) is of a discipline gradually evolving through better defined methodologies, clarified roles, and increasing scope. We see this gradual evolution, with real transformation for a few programs, but most are not seizing the opportunities for change. … While most EA programs see these imperatives (i.e., customer experience, mobile, data-driven insights, and digital business models) in their businesses, they still define themselves and operate as a technology management function with technology management-focused goals.

And their strong recommendation is:

Aspire To Follow Leading EA Programs – Not The Mainstream

Agreed, it’s good advice – I too would strongly recommend that EA teams should “aspire to follow leading EA programs”, and not remain mired in the IT-centric mainstream.

So why do I describe it as an ‘absolute gem’?

It’s because just two years ago, this same consultancy argued vehemently for the assertion that EA was and should only be centred around mainstream IT:

Do you want your strategies to succeed? You’ll need the gentleman on the left. He designs your business. … He’s an obscure executive called an Enterprise Architect (EA) and he works for your CIO. … [Y]ou don’t want your strategies following spaghetti roads – you want them moving through your company on logical, straight highways …

Why does he work for the CIO? Because the roads in your company are paved with technology – so the best way to ensure that they are straight is to build and control the tech … and that’s what Enterprise Architects do.

And, when I critiqued that stream of howlers in my post ‘Broken‘, they then proceeded to further compound the errors, worse and even worse – as you’ll see if you read that post.

Oops.

Which is why I’d take that consultancy and their ilk a fair lot more seriously if they had not spent so much effort in creating that dysfunctional ‘mainstream’ in the first place, actively holding the discipline back by years if not decades – a fact which seems to be coming back to bite them now. “Hoist by their own petard“, indeed…

But I’m perhaps a bit too lost in my ‘grumpy old man’ persona about this: it’s been a long, hard, painful struggle, and I admit that that pain does tend to colour my judgement somewhat. Instead, I really should say as well that it is good to see some constructive change happening here: even if it’s several years later than we would have liked, it is real progress – ‘signs of movement at the EA Corral‘ and all that. And in the case of this specific consultancy, quite a long way ahead relative to some (most?) of its business-rivals. We ought at least to celebrate that, I guess?

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4 comments on “Hoist by their own petard (again)
  1. Doug McDavid says:

    Well, I surely am not in a position to spend the $499 for the actual report, which apparently reports on a state-of-the-art survey. It’s interesting that they focus on some concept of an Age-Of-The-Customer. I wonder when they think that “age” started? 1954, when Peter Drucker published his famous aphorism, “There is only one valid definition of a business purpose: to create a customer.”

  2. geoff elliott says:

    I would also argue it is not as simple as just responding to customers. Agility and adaptiveness is essential. The big consultancies and IT companies haven’t woken up to fact that the interface between the environment (the custom/market) and the operational systems (S1) has to be designed – the transduction boundary in Beers Terms. It is motherhood and apple pie just to say the purpose of an organisation is to respond to customer demand. There are example examples of organisations failing because they have adopted the Deming fallacy of consistency of purpose. Great 1970s/80s thinking but hardly relevant in the 21st c

    • Tom G says:

      Thanks, Geoff – strong agree on all of that, and good point about “Great 1970s/80s thinking but hardly relevant in the 21st c” (though ‘responding to customers’ is still part of the overall story, of course).

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