Going, going, gone… and start again

I’m now seventy years old. Today is the day that I retire from ‘enterprise’-architecture, so that I can concentrate more on enterprise-architecture.

And no, that’s not a contradiction.

The point here is that there are two different approaches that are both described as ‘enterprise architecture’.

The first is EWITA – enterprise-wide IT-architecture. It does have its valid uses, but it should never be described as ‘enterprise-architecture’, for the simple reason that its only real interest is the use of IT in the enterprise, not the enterprise itself. Unfortunately, most of what purports to be ‘enterprise-architecture’ at present is actually either misapplied EWITA and/or EWITA-flavoured ‘business-architecture’, which all but guarantees its failure in the enterprise context. As of today, I consider myself to be formally retired from anything to do with that type of ‘enterprise’-architecture.

The other approach is enterprise-architecture as the literal ‘the architecture of the enterprise’ – the dynamic structure and story of the enterprise as a whole. Unlike misapplied-EWITA and the like, this whole-enterprise architecture is simple, straightforward, effective, easy to learn and easy to apply. And also unlike EWITA – which, by design and definition, can only work well with the IT of the enterprise – this approach works the same way everywhere, across every aspect of the enterprise, every type of content or context, every scope and scale, every timescale, every stage of change from big-picture strategy to real-time operations and back again. And we can apply this to every type of enterprise, from one person’s business-model to the enterprise of life itself. That’s the form of enterprise-architecture to which I’ve committed myself for at least the next few years.

Whilst techniques from whole-enterprise architecture can be used to minimise the risk of failure in EWITA-based ‘enterprise’-architecture, most current EWITA-based approaches will cause failure if we attempt to use them alone at a whole-of-enterprise scope and scale. There’s a difference between those two forms of ‘enterprise-architecture’: don’t mix them up!

Another reason why I’m walking away from ‘enterprise’-architecture is that I simply can’t afford to do it. Too many people still seem to think that everything I do must be available to them ‘for free’ – which, if true, would mean I have no way to survive within the insanity of the money-economy. And despite repeated warnings, way too many people persist in playing dirty with ‘unfair questions‘ – two more just this week, in fact, one of them wanting to ‘pick [my] brain’ ‘for free’ whilst they themselves were being paid full consultancy-rates by their client to ask the questions. This has to stop: so, from today onward,  I will not answer any question about business-related enterprise-architecture without upfront payment of a professional-level fee – a minimum of at least USD$100 to respond to the question at all, with a reasonable hourly rate thereafter. I’m retired now: don’t even think of dragging me back into that mess unless you’re willing to pay for it…

This weblog – http://weblog.tetradian.com – has well over a thousand posts on the theory and practice of enterprise-architecture, with all of that unique, original, ground-breaking material at present still available to everyone for free. However, it’s not ‘free’ for me – in fact it costs me several hundred dollars a year so that others can have it for free. Given the negative-income I get at present from almost every interaction I have with the enterprise-architecture community, I’m not sure that I can afford to keep it going much longer. If you do want it to remain available for everyone, please help me maintain that website by supporting me on Patreon. This would also fund a site redesign to make it easier to find content on specific themes, and the development-sequences for key ideas and tools for whole-enterprise architectures and system-design.

I’ll continue to post on Twitter and LinkedIn regular free ‘from-the-archives’ re-posts of articles from the weblog. Many of these seem to have been way ahead of their time when first published, so a lot of that content will still be experienced as new, especially for those who’ve recently joined the enterprise-architecture community.

Also note that from now on, Patreon will be the only place where I’ll be publishing new material on business-related enterprise-architecture – such as the post I’m working on at present about how to use an extended version of Stafford Beer’s Viable System Model as a completeness-checklist for service design. These posts will be available only to people subscribing to the Patreon at USD$5/month and above.

Subscribers on Patreon also help us develop new books and training-materials for enterprise-architecture and business change, such as the Change-mapping books and worksheets:

(Huge thanks to all of our existing Patreon subscribers for their support in this work!)

My relatively-new ‘Small Changes‘ newsletter on Substack will focus more on whole-enterprise architecture and social change, and will remain free for the foreseeable future. However, if there’s enough interest, I may add a new paid-subscriber-only section for a regular ‘Ask Me Anything’ on business-related enterprise-architecture and business change – please let me know if you’d like this to happen.

Over the next few months I’m aiming to publish on Leanpub ebook-anthologies of posts from the weblog. In addition to updates to the existing anthologies on SCAN and Enterprise Canvas, it’s probable that new topics will include: tools and toolsets for enterprise-architecture; theory and praxis for enterprise-architecture; perspectives and disciplines for enterprise-architecture; whole-enterprise architecture; big-picture architecture and social change (RBPEA); people, power and the human side of systems; and the role of generalists. There’s also a new edition of the Changes business-novel coming soon – including a print-edition for the first time, and also a possible audio-book.

It’s not just business-related fiction, of course. Over the coming years I’d really like to place more focus on my sci-fi stories, such as my Australia-future novel Yabbies, and my series in the sort-of-steampunk world of  The Viner Codex – “Weird politics, weird plant-things, weird battles where nobody dies”:

I’ll still happily work on EWITA, if anyone wants to pay me to do it – but I’ll admit there are many other people who are much better at it than I am. After twenty years watching that field, though, it’s hard now not to feel cynical about it that form of ‘enterprise’-architecture: so much hype, so often so little actual delivered value… I’ve done what I can to minimise the damage that it can cause, but the ‘official’ frameworks are so riddled with so many hard-wired errors and misframings, and there seems overall to be so little rigour, discipline or relevance to anything real, that I’m often forced to wonder what is the point of it anyway – or whether there is any meaningful point to it at all. Oh well.

And also – and importantly – whether there’s much point in doing architectures for business that merely increases the risk we’ll no longer have a planet on which we can do business… It’s more than about time that, as a profession, we all acknowledge that there are higher priorities than propping up delusory short-term profit for the same pack of parasites who’ve created this global scale mess in the first place.  But that’s why I’m focussing now on whole-enterprise architecture: it includes IT and the like wherever necessary, of course, but the real point is that it’s always about people first and foremost – and about concepts, tools and methods to ensure we have a better chance for a more survivable, sustainable and preferably joyful world, for everyone, onward into the future.

I do still want to support this via the ‘digital-nomad’ bit

…though the in-person parts of that will have to wait until the lockdowns ease off enough to let me travel around to wherever I need to go. In the meantime, I’ll be able to do at least some of that as a set of online training-courses on whole-enterprise architectures and the like – such as a simple, straightforward, easy-to-learn session on “come in with an idea, leave with a viable business-model”.

More detail on that later, though. For now, there’s a lot of clean-up and suchlike to do, to set things up for the new direction. And, for today, a moment’s rest, to relax a bit for my birthday, this life-marker of ‘three score and ten’ – and perhaps reflect and celebrate somewhat on what I have been able to achieve in the past two decades’ work on enterprise-architectures and so much more.

9 Comments on “Going, going, gone… and start again

  1. I know we disagree about this, but still: given that more and more of many organisations is effectively made up of some form of machine logic (IT), using your terminology: most of ‘EA’ will be covered by ‘EWITA’ (which other call EITA). It is the complexity of EWITA why we are attempting EA in the first place. Before large scale IT, there was little need for ‘EA’.

    In other words, focusing on EA as the ‘wider’ form of EA (with EWITA a part of it) is only useful if focusing on EA that way would solve the actual problems we have to solved which live in the EWITA space. And to make matters worse: the EWITA behaviour is dragging anything outside it via its inertia. So, the irony is: to be able to do the EA thing, you need to focus on the EWITA thing, not the other way around.

    In short and in your terminology focusing on EA-outside-of-EWITA to solve EWITA does not work. Focusing on EWITA does something useful in the EA space. In the end, there is a bidirectional effect of course. Thinking about your EA-outside-of-EWITA can have an effect on your EWITA.

    We deeply disagree here. I know.

    • You’re right, Gerben, we do deeply disagree on this. In your case, I have no trouble in respecting your opinion and experience: it is the way you see the world, because that’s the world you live in.

      “Thinking about your EA-outside-of-EWITA can have an effect on your EWITA.” – yes, it can. From my side, a much-needed effect, and one that is desperately overdue, Yes, EWITA is undoubtedly relevant in enterprise-architecture – I don’t in any way doubt that, Yet it’s only one theme amongst many, many others – logistics, geopolitics, climate-change, resource-depletion, social upheaval, and impacts of healthcare issues at every scale, just to name a few examples. Arbitrarily focussing on just one theme, and treating all of the others as inherently-subordinate to that arbitrarily-chosen one – as IT-centric ‘enterprise’-architecture does – is, frankly, somewhere between absurdly self-centred and outright suicidal, all the way out to a fully global scale. If we are to have any chance of making enterprise-architecture relevant and useful at the whole-enterprise level, we must put an end to the IT-centric farce, and put EWITA into its place.

      • Gerben, a post-script to my last post …

        I am conscious that I have a biased perspective. For example, because I am often engaged to assist in bringing people and organisational perspectives to IT enabled change and transformation initiatives, my experience is in dealing with IT professionals who don’t adequately understand and attend to these issues. This can lead me to think and communicate in terms of “all” IT people have this problem / deficiency.

        So, I have not ever worked in an organisation where you bring your expertise, in a manner which might better attend to the “and” than just to the IT part of architecture, design and change. Equally, if you bring a more balanced view, then you may not have experienced situations that I have experienced.

        Hence, I attempt (but do not always succeed) in communicating in a manner that leaves open the possibility that things work and are experienced in ways that I have never encountered. Hopefully, we can find ways to bridge across our different experiences and identify the areas of common ground on which we can build better understanding and hence better communications and practices.

    • Interesting position, Gerben.

      I agree that technology has led to complexity that architecture is helpful in dealing with. It has led to both more complex technology design problems and more complex organisational design problems. Hence, architectural thinking is applicable to both domains. There seems to be an implication (perhaps unintended) that architecture is only needed for the IT aspects.

      I spend the vast majority of my time dealing with the impacts of IT failing to attend to the people and organisational issues. Hence, my experience in applying architectural thinking to the organisation as well as to the IT.

      I wonder if we have allowed ourselves to fall into the good old binary trap of either / or, when in fact, what we need is “and” … we need EA AND EITA … or whatever labels we give to each.

      In my experience, some IT professionals (EITAs and others) fail to address one of the fundamental principles for systems … that a system and its containing system (IT and organisation in this case) interact in a dynamic manner … requiring attention to both elements … focus on one without attention to the other dooms us to failure, no matter whether our starting point is the enterprise or the technology.

  2. Happy Birthday, Tom. I hear your pain in not being paid for all the work you have done for the EA community over the years. You seem to be better set up now going forwards with your Patreon gig to make some sort of return on your ideas and wish you well in your new exploits on enterprise-architecture and publishing sci-fi fiction. Best wishes, Lorne

    • Many thanks, Peter!

      Sadly, the short-answer to your all-important question was that I didn’t. 🙁 We were (still are) in a hard-lockdown again here – no visitors allowed, no travel allowed to see anyone (5km max, for exercise or food-shop only). I live alone, so no partner to share it with, and what family I have are literally ten thousand miles away, so overall there’s not much point. And it’s been yet another year of almost no income at all – very, very few in the enterprise-architecture community ever pay anything for my work that they use – so there ain’t much room in the budget for any big celebration anyway. But I _did_ allow myself the luxury of buying a chicken-kiev at the supermarket, and had that as my birthday meal! 🙂

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