A new direction?
It was a good chat, that serendipitous meeting with an IT-recruiter on the crowded homebound train. We’d managed to grab one of the rare table-seats, so I was able to show her my slidedeck ‘Attracting, retaining and getting the best from your architects‘, from my Australian ‘EA Tour’. “Very useful”, she said, “it’s the first time I’ve seen something I could show my staff to explain what architects actually do.”
And we got on to the topic of enterprise-architecture, of course – the role of the enterprise-architect. “It’s dead”, she said. “I hardly get any enquiries for enterprise-architects any more.” She shrugged. “And the few we get, you’re right, they’re not really architecture-jobs at all – not like what you’ve shown me there, anyway. They’re just hyped-up titles for low-paid, low-level software jobs – probably nothing more than that.”
Kinda illustrated my fears about the whole sad mess of so-called ‘enterprise-architecture’ these days. Oh well.
“But there is this new job-title I’m seeing”, she added. “Transformation-architect. I’m seeing a lot of demand for those. And at top rates, too.”
So is that me? Is that the new label that I need for my work – Enterprise Transformation Architect? Time now to change direction?
Hmm… Maybe… I dunno…
Okay, yeah, ‘Enterprise Transformation Architect‘ does have a nice ring to it – a certain rightness, I’d agree.
In some ways this whole mess around enterprise-architecture kinda reminds of the one-way traffic-system in the city of Bath, in western England. In principle, it’s supposed to keep traffic out of the centre of the city: but the road-layout is such that there’s actually only one possible exit-road, and all the other roads instead loop back into the middle of city again – keeping all the traffic stuck there, fuming in more ways than one. Daft…
But much of enterprise-architecture is like that now, too. Courtesy of Open Group et al, the ‘enterprise-architect’ title is all but meaningless now: lost within itself, a dead-end, even to recruiters. No way forward, it seems.
To be honest, even at this point, that would-be ‘new direction’ of ‘Enterprise Transformation Architect’ already looks like it’s heading the same way too.
It seems that whatever I do, whichever way I turn, I just can’t escape from here…
Yet, to be honest, I’m not even sure that I’d want to. Instead, in this endless turning-and-returning, there’s often a sense more like that last section of TS Eliot’s ‘Four Quartets‘:
We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
The reality is that, for now, enterprise-architecture is what I do – the place or profession I where I most express what I do. (The real ‘enterprise-architecture’, that is – the literal ‘the architecture of the enterprise’, as a unified whole, a ‘bold endeavour’. Not the tiny, often-near-irrelevant, IT-obsessed subset that still so often purports to be ‘enterprise-architecture’ – that disastrous term-hijack that’s crippled this discipline for decades now…)
There’s no other term that really describes it: it is, literally, the architecture of the enterprise’. Nothing else will do.
(Darn nuisance, then, that that bunch of idiots have hijacked the term to try to make it mean something completely different – a pathetic subset of the real scope of ‘the architecture of the enterprise’. Oh well.)
Yet since I can’t meaningfully use that term any more, perhaps the best option would be describe more exactly what it is that I do. Which, in the process, might also open a much broader market for what it is that I do. It’s worth a try, anyway.
— The core is that I focus on the practice of the practice of enterprise-architecture and related disciplines – helping people within organisations to develop an enterprise-architecture practice, and to lift their skills, their maturity, at the disciplines of enterprise-architecture.
(These days, I don’t do much of the detail-level practice of enterprise-architecture itself, in that I don’t set out to develop an organisation’s enterprise-architecture for them. There’s a very good reason for that: from long experience in ‘the trade’, I’m adamant that the only people competent to do an organisation’s enterprise-architecture are the people who work within that organisation – and, preferably, have themselves worked there for several years as well. In my opinion and experience, few if any external consultants have the social-networks and in-depth knowledge of an organisation that real-enterprise practice will need – and since I’ve always been a consultant, not an employee, that constraint applies to me too.)
— To do this, I develop tools and techniques for sensemaking and whole-of-enterprise architecture. I’m a maker of tools for change – such as SCAN, SCORE, Five Elements and Enterprise Canvas. Most of these are now described in books, ebooks and slidedecks. Later this year, they’ll also start to be described on video – and, if current plans come off, implemented in sensemaking-apps as well.
— And I do training, to help people make the best use of those tools and techniques. I already have a fair amount of training-materials and training-courses ready to go – and will be doing a lot more of that over the coming year).
— As a set of disciplines, enterprise-architecture is still a complete shambles. It’s easy to identify why it’s such a shambles, but pointing fingers doesn’t actually solve anything. Instead, on this blog and elsewhere, I also develop detailed critiques of what doesn’t work, why it doesn’t work, and what to do about it, to make it work properly. (Okay, a fair few people do complain that my posts on this can be kinda long – but unfortunately it does need that level of detail if we’re to have any chance of disentangling some of the more egregious messes that have been made in these disciplines…)
— Like others, I also do in-person consultancy, on enterprise-architecture, strategy and more. Over on LinkedIn, Grant Charles Adams summarised well one key aspect of this kind of consultancy:
What am I good for? You’d have to confirm with clients, but I feel it is my ability to “think differently”. Too often I find my clients locked-in to a way of thinking, or a client-owned method that focuses on the ‘how’ and the ‘who’, but rarely the ‘why’. Considering my successful engagements, because we’ve all had unsuccessful ones too, I am certain they were successful because I understood the ‘why’ and found a way to bring “big-picture thinking” to the work.
— That’s also about creating clarity, about building capability to enact a continual, collective process of sensemaking / decision-making to support action, on purpose. And not imposing a prepackaged ‘solution’, but helping architecture-teams and others find their own solutions from their own context – and own those solutions, too.
So far, so sort-of-same, it might seem. But what’s different, even unique, is that these tools and techniques work together as a unified set, and are fully fractal – in other words, they work together, consistently, always in the same way:
- for every type of content – things, information, relations and more
- with every type of activity – people, machines, IT, whatever
- across every type of context – commercial, social, government, non-profit and more
- at every level – from strategy to tactics to implementation to operation and back again
- at every scale – from a single line of code to an entire planet
(In case you’re interested, the technical term for this is metatools, metaframeworks or metatheory – tools and techniques that apply to and reflect upon themselves, recursively. Sounds complex at first, but in practice makes sensemaking and the like a heck of a lot simpler, for everyone.)
All of those tools have strong crosslinks to proven techniques for futures and strategic-foresight – hence Tetradian’s longstanding tagline of ‘The Futures of Business’. That’s not unique as such in enterprise-architecture, but there aren’t many other EA-folks as yet who’d have such tools readily available in their toolkit.
And also almost-unique in enterprise-architecture, my work has a strong focus on enterprise as a human activity, with a strong emphasis on people and the people-issues in the architecture – in contrast to the excessive over-emphasis on IT alone that you’re likely to find elsewhere.
That’s me – sort-of a new direction, though still in much the same space as the old one. So if you need:
- tools and techniques to make sense of the enterprise, and where it’s going or needs to go – whatever type of enterprise it might be
- new approaches to ‘the architecture of the enterprise’ – ones that actually work in the real-world
- enterprise-architectures with a human face – yet still also include the IT and everything else, of course
…you now know who to call for this. 🙂
So do get in touch! – let’s talk about what you’ll need, to build better futures, for your own enterprise and beyond.