Wednesday, January 11, 2012

The Purpose of Enterprise Architecture

@adrianrcampbell wants to explain #entarch to IT architects who don't see the wood for the trees (via @itworks). Adrian reckons that the primary Purpose of Enterprise Architecture is to support strategic change.

@nickmalik says that IT Archs still won't get it. "Need examples of individual activities that make a difference." So let's hope Adrian provides some useful examples in his subsequent posts.

In the meantime, I'm concerned that the phrase "supporting strategic change" lacks bite. What is support really worth? Let me look at a parallel case - sports coaching.

Let's say that the purpose of a sports coach is to support one or more athletes and help them win competitions. For example, Scottish tennis star Andy Murray has recently appointed another former tennis star Ivan Lendl as his coach. This follows Murray's lack of success at the highest level - his repeated failure to win a Grand Slam tournament. Perhaps Lendl's presence on Team Murray will make some unspecifiable difference to Murray's performance; but even if Murray's performance now improves, nobody can ever be sure how much difference is due to Lendl. Murray has survived without a coach for extended periods, and might possibly have won sooner or later anyway, so we have to regard the coach as an optional extra. There is a sense that the appointment of a coach is an admission of some inadequacy on Murray's part. (John Seddon would call this "failure demand".)

At this level considerable sums of money will change hands, and it is not clear how this is negotiated. What is a fair reward for the "support" of the coach? Does the coach get a flat fee or a percentage of winnings?

I don't think there are many enterprise architects who work on a no-win-no-fee basis. But there are certainly many executives who believe they can manage so-called strategic change perfectly well thank you, without having enterprise architects sitting in the player's box tutting and fretting. It's not just IT architects who don't appreciate enterprise architecture.


Guy said...

Most enterprise architects are forced to work within the IT department, so they effectively become IT architects who have a great arsenal of ttechniques related to strategy.
They have to use their soft skills to convince the CIO of their strategic value (although limited to IT) and work via the CIO for their strategic objectives.
But their natural habitat should be at CEO level, and to realize the strategic objectives of the enterprise, they should use the CIO as their most important partner (emphasis on partner).

Richard Veryard said...

Guy's account of enterprise architecture may be what many enterprise architects inwardly believe, but it might be politically unwise for them to explain their role to the CIO or CEO in such terms. Adrian's original post was about the public face of enterprise architecture, not its private agenda.

Adrian Campbell said...

I can see that I need to hurry up and write my next blog entry and address all the points that have been raised.