Three months to go!

Yikes! Just realised that it’s only three months from now that I’ll be seventy years old! Time to think about plans for retirement… yay!

Though those plans are going to have to be kinda constrained, because, to put it bluntly, I’m not far off broke. Too many years propping up enterprise-architecture, with almost no income coming back. Fifteen years of “jam tomorrow, but never jam today”. And fifteen years on negative-income, day after day, month after month, year after year. That kinda takes its toll, in all too many different ways. Ouch.

Oh, sure, there’s a lot of people these days who’d view my work on architectures as influential; important even. Some even describe me as a ‘thought-leader’ for the entire industry, which is perhaps a bit embarrassing, if nice to hear, of course. And yes, a fair few people now are making serious money out of my work – and yes, that is good to see. Definitely gratifying and all that.

Just the other day, for example, a tool-vendor proudly told me how valuable for them my work has been, again and again, over all of these years. They’re now making a lot of money out of that too, now. Nice.

But what they hadn’t done was paid for any of that work. Not a cent. Not ever. They seemed to think that it magically came out of nowhere – rather than out of a decade and more of very, very hard, unpaid, full-time work.

And yeah, there was that other one, too, a couple of weeks back now. Had read my work on service-architectures. Didn’t quite understand it, though. Wanted – more like demanded – that I should write a detailed description, with detailed diagrams, of exactly how it could be used in parallel with someone else’s model. And that he could then use, with his own copyright attached, in his commercial training-course.

At least a week or two’s full-time work for me to do all that. Would he pay for me to do that work? No, of course not! It was my work that he wanted to use, so of course it was my responsibility! Certainly not his!



I did warn everyone about this in a post here some years ago: I’m sorry, but I just can’t afford it. I can’t afford to do it. Not now. I never could afford to do that, actually, but certainly not any more.

I can’t afford it.

So I can’t do it.

Won’t do it.

Not any more.


Okay, let’s dial this back a bit. This isn’t about playing guilt-games, it’s just that, yeah, okay, sure, this is the way things are around this industry right now. Sure, I do get that, and that’s fine. For others, anyway. Sort-of. We can come back to that ‘sort-of’ bit a bit later.

And yeah, do remember that I’m, well, kind of old, y’see, and that there are also good reasons why I do get kind of grumpy at times. And, to be honest, for me there hasn’t been much fun in most of this for most of the past fifteen years or so. Quite the opposite of fun, in fact, all too often. Oh well.

So as I move towards retirement, I’d really like to do something that’s a bit more fun. And also wrap up a lot more of my real work, while I still can.

My ‘real work’? What’s that?

Okay, this might take a bit of explaining…

You’ll find the basic outline in a couple of older posts here: ‘What I do and how I do it‘, and ‘What I do, and why‘. That’s the method-bit, anyway. In essence, it’s about a systematic process to rethink any type of discipline, to make it more effective overall.

My work on the formal theory behind that process goes back almost fifty years now. The first formal publication on that work was way back in 1976, in my Masters thesis on ‘Design for the education of experience’, for London’s Royal College of Art. So yeah, I’ve been doing this for quite a while.

That real work is about how people learn skills – any skill – and then learn how to apply that skill. And the core of it is what we might call a meta-method – a method to create methods, that, when linked together, create whole disciplines.

So enterprise-architecture? – well, yeah, it’s not actually the centre of my world. For me it’s merely the most recent of the disciplines I’ve worked on over the years, putting those meta-methods into practice. Just one application amongst many.

And to put enterprise-architecture into context, from my perspective, and in relation to that larger picture, take a look at this:

(Click on the image to see the full-sized photo.)

Yeah, it’s a bunch of books. That bit’s obvious. But if you look more closely, they all have my name on, as the author. Yes, I’ve written a lot on enterprise-architecture over the past decade or so – but in reality all of those those books on enterprise-architecture are just that pale-yellow set that’s way over on the left-hand side of the shelf. The next book along is the first anthology that I edited, from around 1974; the one next to it was own first book, from 1976. The fawn-coloured box at the top? – that’s the user-manual for the software that I wrote forty years ago, the first ever true desktop-publishing system, years before the Macintosh and Pagemaker. Those other books there? – well, that’s why this weblog has all those other weird categories, about power and responsibility, realities, geomancy and so on. And what you see in that picture above are just the topics that I happened to write full-length books about: there’s a whole lot more than that…

So: what to do with all of this?


I need a place to do that work. And I would really like to have a home of my own again where I could do that work.

Probably sounds like it shouldn’t be a problem, right? – after all, the going rate here in Australia for even low-level enterprise-architecture work is around the AUD$1000/day mark, so no doubt it looks like I should have been pulling in at least a couple hundred thousand each year for the past decade and more. Should by now have something like a million or more to spare, right? Easy.

But there’s one really big catch: the area I work in is the futures of enterprise-architecture. And at present, almost no-one pays for futures-work, because it’s just about as far from immediate-money as it’s possible to be:


So whilst just about everyone else around me has been literally pulling in the millions, I’ve just spent the last fifteen years working full-time for basically no pay. And blasting through my reserves to keep it going, so that in the future everyone else can make money and the like. Not very wise on my part, you might say: and I guess that that’s what happens to us if we try to break out of mainstream economics to avoid entrapment on ‘Maggie’s Farm‘. My mistake. Oh well.

Anyway, the practical upshot is that I don’t have anything like enough left to buy a house: and now probably no chance at all that I ever will. That hurts; that hurts a lot.

But I do perhaps still have enough left to buy a decent van, and thence do my own variant of ‘digital nomad’ for the next while. Possibly. I’ve covered some of the practical aspects here in the series of posts on ‘EA in miniature‘, including some notes on big-picture first-steps, on ‘getting-real‘ with business-models and the like, and some initial prototypes and other experiments. I’ll no doubt cover more of the detail here somewhen in the future.

The important point, for me, is that it could actually be fun – which, yeah, would be a very nice change.

But right now, that’s more a matter for the future; a matter for three months’ time from now, when I withdraw from working in mainstream enterprise-architecture. What’s going to happen in the meantime? And what will happen to all of my existing work on enterprise-architecture and the like?

Don’t worry: I’m not vanishing straight away. I still have a few posts left to write here on enterprise-architecture, such as a brief series on the three core reasons why architectures fail, and how to avoid them. I still have to finish the third book in the Change-mapping series – not least because the work on change-mapping and on mythquake and the like will be a core part of the work that I’m aiming to do in the future. There’s quite a lot like that that I do still need to do.

And don’t worry: all of the existing material will still be available for everyone. (I described this point some years ago now, in the post ‘The bucket list‘.) And there’s a lot of that material: some 1300 posts here, totalling around two million words, or about forty books’ worth of original works Almost 200 videos on YouTube; more than fifty slidedecks on Slideshare. If it’s publicly available now, it’ll stay that way, for as long as I can. That’s a promise.

The big shift is that after three months from now, there’ll be no more freebies. Not any more.

And my relationships with the enterprise-architecture community will shift to a strictly commercial basis.

If you want me to run a training-course for you on whole-enterprise architectures, on enhancing an organisation’s capability to handle enterprise-change, or on how to repair the damage caused by most current so-called ‘enterprise’-architecture frameworks, yes, I’ll do it: but on a strictly commercial basis.

If you want me to attend your conference, run a workshop, do a webinar or presentation, yes, I’ll do it: but on a strictly commercial basis.

If you want me to review your work, or help you define your own framework or the like, yes, I’ll do it: but on a strictly commercial basis.

There will be no more freebies. Not any more.

Not in any commercial context for enterprise-architecture or the like, at any rate.

If you want someone else to do that work, I would recommend the Intersection / Enterprise Design crew, or the Hivemind crew; or any of the software-architecture folks who do understand real enterprise-architecture, such as Ruth Malan and Simon Brown, In Australia, I’d recommend Andrew Blades at The Bridge, on recruiting for architectures; and the Fragile to Agile crew, for architecture-consultancy and the like. But I doubt that any of them will offer you any freebie-consultancy, either – not in any commercial context, anyway.

If you want any futures-work for architectures as a whole, you’ll have to pay for it now: it’s not a freebie any more.

And yes, don’t worry, I do still aim produce new material on methods for whole-enterprise architectures and the like. But those new materials will only be available to subscribers on the Patreon account.

If there’s enough demand, I may also do a regular business-oriented ‘Ask Me Anything’ about the practice of whole-enterprise architecture: but those sessions will only be available to paid-subscribers on the Small Changes Substack newsletter-account. (Paid-subscribers on Patreon can also be assigned free complimentary paid-subscription on Substack.)

There will be no more freebies. Not any more.

I’ll leave it at that for now, I guess – though do watch for more updates as we get closer to that retirement-date in three month’s time.

3 Comments on “Three months to go!

  1. Hi Tom,
    Excellent post evidencing the realities of modern day expectations, and the realities of impending retirement. I went through this entire post two years ago, so I understand the issues mentioned and the realization of financial constraints.

    I have loved your posts, videos etc.. over the years and will miss your contributions to thorny issues faced by the various communities on LinkedIn, but i do understand the commercial aspects of your predicament.

    As you transition to a “Man with a van” please do stay in touch.

    • Thanks, Robert – and don’t worry, I’ll still be here. The only big difference is that the ‘freebies’ will stop: if anyone wants my work for commercial use, they can darn well pay commercial rates for it!

      And also, don’t forget, the ‘man with with a van’ bit is about providing a mobile base to continue doing the work on change: just in more mobile form, and with a bit more joy and magic thrown into the mix! 🙂

      • my comment was tongue in cheek, i was lucky to nail down a retainer with a company who develop a top of the range EA repository, and power BI combination to produce dashboards for executives wanting a full architectural depiction of their environment on phone, iPad and laptop.

        They have subsequently pivoted to learning & development interventions, and i have been included in sales pitches around EA and the various domains within our discipline.

        Maybe something along these lines may be something you may wish to consider.

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