Saturday, January 24, 2009

Creating Value by Informed Governance

These days, small bookshops only survive if they can beat Amazon. My local bookshop (Pitshanger Books, in West London) consistently does. I ordered a book on Enterprise Architecture last Saturday, and it arrived on Monday lunchtime. (Despite the database telling us that there wasn't a copy anywhere in the country. Lesson 2: never trust the database.) Thanks Walter!

So now let me tell you about the book.

Enterprise Architecture: Creating Value by Informed Governance

by Martin Op't Land, Erik Proper, Maarten Waage, Jeroen Cloo, Claudia Steghuis.
Springer 2009

This book is intended as an introductory textbook for masters-level students or new practitioners of enterprise architecture (EA). This book presents Enterprise Architecture as an instrument, positioned between strategy and programme management, to join strategy formulation with strategy execution.

Enterprise face certain challenges to their survival.
  • Keep up or perish
  • Comply or bust
  • ...
The prevailing wisdom is that to improve their chances of survival, enterprises need to be agile (p6). But less than 60% of strategic objectives in organizations are reached (p 21). Enterprise architecture is presented as the solution to this problem, offering a coherent set of descriptions (of the enterprise) to enable the informed governance of the enterprise's evolution and success (p127). These descriptions are used within a managed process of organizational change, which includes situation description, strategic direction, gap analysis, tactical planning, operational planning, selection of partial solutions, and solution architecture (p127).

The book gives a useful overview of some of the popular frameworks for enterprise architecture - notably Zachman, ArchiMate and TOGAF 8.1 - although these frameworks are presented fairly uncritically. It also provides some helpful process guidance. What does the architect need to do, and what are the required competencies and desired personality of the architect?

But the point of enterprise architecture is to provide stakeholders with insight into organization change (p23). But what is the nature of this insight? Where should enterprise architects focus their attention, and how do these frameworks and processes help them to pay attention to the right things? In particular, if agility is the top concern these days, how does an enterprise architect reason about agility?

The book acknowledges several open issues in the field of enterprise architecture, including the lack of cost/benefit analysis for the practice of EA (p129, p133). But there is a broader need for quantification - reasoning about the value and viability of the enterprise as a whole. Most of the models used by enterprise architecture are essentially line-and-box diagrams, with no facility for quantification, so that even important architectural judgements about cohesion and coupling are subjective and unreliable. Martin Op't Land's doctoral thesis (Applying Architecture and Ontology to the Splitting and Allying of Enterprises, 2008) does address some of these issues, but this material is not included in the book under review.

Overall, this is a short and well-written introduction, covering a lot of useful material, but leaving plenty of important topics for the following books in the series. ...

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